VENICE, La. - As BP continues efforts to cap the gushing oil flow at the bottom of the gulf, fishermen across South Louisiana are still lining for jobs with containment and cleanup, but frustration is mounting.
After sitting through another oil spill cleanup and response meeting Friday, tempers flared for many St. Bernard fishermen.They're angry over the wages being offered and what some describe as a confusing, unnecessarily detailed application process.
'They want us to jump through hoops like freaking puppy dogs. We not puppy dogs. We commercial fishermen,'one fisherman said.
Parish officials say BP has employed around 500 of the 800 St. Bernard fishermen who signed up through the Vessels of Opportunity program so far, but some tell us they need immediate financial relief.
'I worked the 4th, the 5th, and the 6th, here it is the 14th, ain't received no paycheck,' said fisherman Michael Collier.'You know, I got a light bill due. I got an 11-month-old baby girl. You know, how am I supposed to feed her if I'm not making no income?'
From possible drug tests to background checks, some fishermen fear the application process could cut them out of the work, while others arguethey're at BP's mercy.
After spending years on the water, some say they lack the necessary skills to find another job.
'I dropped out of seventh grade to do this. I been doing this my whole life since I was a kid. That's all I know. How I'm gonna pay my bills. I got a family to take care of. I got kids,' said fisherman Michael Thonn.
Despite the frustration though, many are counting on the opportunity to help with the containment and cleanup efforts.
St. Bernard President Craig Taffaro says their skills will help.
'We want to listen to them throughout this process, because many of the good ideas that have come to this point, have come because the fishermen have been out in the workforce and in the water and making adjustments that even the oil responders taken note of,' Taffaro said.
Taffaro says thatwith the help of the state wildlife and fisheries office parish officials are working hard to screen out applicants who are not licensed boat captains or commercial fishermen in St. Bernard.
Meanwhile, BP officials say they are not requiring drug tests at this time, but say that could change, because of safety concerns.
Officials say workers will be paid within 15 days of submitting an invoice for the work.
In responding to the criticisms in St. Bernard, a BP spokesman expressed appreciation for the fishermen and their expertise in helping with the cleanup effort.