BP Offers Fishermen a Month's Pay, From Slow Season

Reported by Scott Cohn, written by Michelle Lodge

Fishermen along the Gulf Coast are unhappy about BP's plan to compensate them for lost wages.

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The oil giant's formula for calculating those payments is causing controversy and distress among workers who make their living at sea. The compensation proposal is based on wages from their slowest earning season.

According to the fishermen, the oil company has offered them one month’s wages, using a formula that takes a three-year average of their income between January and March—their least productive season.

The oil disaster started on April 20, just as the fishermen’s high season was beginning. “Shrimp season is getting ready to open,” fisherman Lester Ansardi of Hopevale, La, told CNBC Wednesday. “Crab season is just picking up.”

BP did not respond to inquiries about the wage compensation proposal.

Separately, the company has hired idle fishermen to prepare the shoreline, in the event that oil reaches the beaches, to lay boom and to use their own boats to help BP in other oil spill-related efforts.

BP has also agreed to pay the three affected states—Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi—$25 million each, as part of a federal law that requires corporations to pay $75 million for economic and environmental disasters. This week, Senator Bill Nelson, (D-FL), introduced a bill that would increase disaster compensation to $10 billion retroactively, which would include the BP accident.

Fishermen in the region are understandably concerned about missed wages, since the disaster began unfolding about two weeks ago. “It’s [fishing is] all we are able to do,” 20-year veteran fisherman Wayne Gray told CNBC Wednesday. “That’s the way we feed our families.”

But they are also worried about the long-term effects of the unabated oil leakage in the gulf and any other lasting damage from dispersants being applied to the water to break down the oil slicks.

The dispersant, manufactured by Nalco, reduces the crude to droplets so that naturally-occurring bacteria can eat the oil. But, environmentalists have expressed concern about whether the compound will hurt the habitat and its animals.

Meanwhile, BP was able to cap one of the three major leaks Wednesday, but reportedly, it does not stanch the major flow of crude oil into the gulf.

Two other plans to stem major leaks include the installation of a pollution containment cover over it and funnel the oil to a waiting ship and to build a relief well that will take three months to complete.

The 98-ton 4-story containment cover is now en route to the oil spill site. It’s expected that crews will attempt to place it within the next few days. However, whether plan works is unknown as this type of recovery attempt has never been tried in such deep water.

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