Mutated Truths

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

Credit: 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.

This article was originally published on onEarth, which is no longer in publication. onEarth was founded in 1979 as the Amicus Journal, an independent magazine of thought and opinion on the environment. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. This article is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the article was originally published by and link to the original; the article cannot be edited (beyond simple things such grammar); you can’t resell the article in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select articles individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our articles.

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