Mutated Truths

Five years after the BP disaster, the oil company says everything is back to normal. This shrimper begs to differ.

Photo: Sarah Craig

In 2010, NRDC partnered with StoryCorps and Bridge the Gulf to tell stories of people living through the Deepwater Horizon disaster. As the five-year mark approaches, onEarth revisited Gulf residents for an update. First of four parts.

Acy Cooper is tough as nails. He's a third-generation shrimper, born in the small fishing town of Venice, found about 80 miles south of New Orleans. As vice president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, Cooper has his finger on the pulse of the bayou’s lucrative fishing industry. The harvest, however, hasn’t been so bountiful since BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010, releasing millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, five years later, Cooper and his family, consisting of three kids and nine grandchildren, are struggling to make ends meet. BP’s massive PR campaign touting the region’s return to normalcy does not play well in these parts. Cooper says fishing catches are down by a third, and several of his fellow fishermen complain of inadequate compensation from the oil company—many took quick cash payments after their claims became bogged down with paperwork. Now they have little financial support if business conditions don’t take a turn for the better soon.

The signs aren’t encouraging. As his friends lose their homes and shrimp come in with massive tumors, black gills, and no eyes, Cooper worries the community will continue to deteriorate if fishing doesn’t return to normal—for real.

“It's not right” Cooper says. “It’s a long way to being right.” Listen to his story below. 

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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