SHELL BEACH, La. British Petroleum workers are heading out on boats with oil booms and taking them into sensitive marsh and coastal areas in an effort to protect the area from a huge oil slick headed towards the coast, but some fishermen say they are frustrated they aren't being used more.
Many of the parish's 330 commercial fishermen said Thursday they were ready to fight the spread of the oil spill, and help clean up the damage. Over 200 offered their boats, docks and other aid. Gov. Bobby Jindal showed support for the initiative, saying the fishermen know the marshes better than anyone.
But while St. Bernard officials say they turned over the list of volunteers over to BP, they say their hands are tied, since BP is the company handling the oil spill and it's up to them to decide whether or not they want to use the volunteers.
'People around here, they know the marsh. This is what they do here every day,' said Kevin Heier, a fisherman in St. Bernard. 'They know how to get from one place to another using the safest route with the weather condition. Why waste your time with people who don't know the area trying to do the work, while we can get you there and back without a problem?
'We have all these boats available, people will be out of work the fishing industry I'm sure is going to go to hell we just don't understand why they're going to get outside contractors to do the work.'
On the flip side, St. Bernard officials have held onto that list for their own purposes in case they come into some assets, like oil boom. They would then turn to that list and ask those fishermen for their volunteer efforts should they need it.
In Boothville in Plaquemines Parish, BP is offering a paid program that teaches interested fishermen how to use the oil booms and contain the spill.
The class, which is being offered at the Boothville-Venice School gym, is all about oil safety, so whenever the volunteers who completed the program encounter oil in the water, they'll know how to deal with it.
BP, which owns the lease and is responsible for the clean-up, wants the volunteers to be able to go out to the weakest points and place containment booms so they can help protect the marshes.
'We're hoping to get them some help in the clean-up. They could use the money, because we don't know what will happen to their future,' said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. 'Secondly, they know these waters. They know we can point to the map, they know the depth of the water, they know how to get there without damaging the environment. So they're the best people to do it, and we just thank BP for embracing this and working with us.'
Nungesser also said it was an 'overreaction' by those who are calling for a shutdown of the oil industry and want to stop drilling.
'It's one accident. I think worldwide we've had four or five, maybe, that have been this magnitude,' Nungesser said. 'Don't stop the drilling. You're going to put people out of work at a time when we don't know the future of south Louisiana. But you're going to send those men home? They've got families to feed. Like I said, we don't shut down all the planes every time a plan crashes until we find out how they crashed.'
Nungesser said because of the high winds, he feels they oil booms are not going to do much containment off shore. He said they're going to have to fight it at the marsh line, and with the help of the fishermen, he hopes they'll be able to do that.