Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
ELMWOOD, La. -- In the coastal areas hardest hit during last year's oil spill, concerns are mounting among those who make a living off of Louisiana seafood.
"How do we go out and market this product, when we're worried about having a product to market?" asked Harlon Pearce, owner of LA Fish & Seafood.
That was just one of the questions Ken Feinberg heard during a meeting at the Yenni Building in Jefferson Parish on Wednesday. The administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility got an earful from dozens of local fishermen, oystermen, shrimpers and crabbers, who say their livelihoods and industry are on the brink.
Feinberg said 97 percent of all the oil-spill claims have been processed, but the problems go deeper.
"There are fishermen in there complaining that though they've heard from the GCCF, they don't like the news they've heard -- about deficiencies, delays, denials -- and that's what we have to deal with," Feinberg said.
How those claims are dealt with could soon be changing, based on the latest meeting:
1) There is a proposed separation of claims coming out of the so-called oil spill "Ground Zero" in Louisiana, mainly for those involved in fisheries in Lafitte, Grand Isle and Venice.
2) The setting up of a "Claims Day" in Jefferson Parish, where payment complaints could be handled.
3) A potential change in how the claims are processed and calculated.
"We had some very good suggestions today, but again, the results are going to be in the follow-up and that's why were going to need to get on it right away," said Jefferson Parish President John Young, who organized Wednesday's meeting.
Still, some seafood processors believe it may be too little too late. Dean Blanchard shut down his Grand Isle processing facility on Friday.
"I don't even need [Feinberg] to pay me," Blanchard said. "If he could just pay the fishermen, so they quit asking for credit, I would consider staying open."
Young said they hope to hold an oil spill "Claims Day" in the parish within the next several weeks.