Devastating Effects On People’s Livelihood

The massive oil spill of 2010 devastated more than just the environment with detrimental consequences to the ecosystem. In communities up and down the coast lives have been devastated through loss of employment in industries ranging from fishing to tourism and all supporting services that go with it. Even with all the billions of Dollars in fines paid by BP, the ordinary man and woman out of work have had to struggle practically alone.

One of the heartbreaking stories I have had personal experience with is my brother Jason. As a 28-year-old man with a wife and two young kids, he had been building a pretty successful little business for himself. He completed welding training after high school and started working odd jobs along the coast. He quickly realized that the fishing industry required welding services at during hours that most other welders in the area were still asleep.

He took out a small business loan and within 12 months had a thriving business that was supporting his family. The oil spill put a drastic end to that. As fishing boats were no longer heading out to sea as much there was less need for repairs and practically overnight Jason’s business plummeted.

The two guys he was employing had to be laid off and within 6 months work had dried up so much that he could no longer keep the business running. Today, Jason no longer lives on the Gulf coast and he has to constantly travel with his family to find the next welding contracts.

But Jason’s experience is not isolated. I have also heard of countless cleaning and catering companies that have shut down with hundreds of job losses. The reason is that hotels and other tourism related services like restaurants and theme parks are no longer seeing the same numbers of tourists.

The same goes for all the countless food supply services and small and large hotels. Many hotels in my area have had close down over the past few years because especially fishing tourism has completely collapsed. And who can blame the tourists? Why would you come to the gulf coast when there are so many other options available that do not have the same pollution and health risks?

While the initial focus was rightly on the cleanup process it seems to many remaining residents that they have been completely ignored in the plight that they have and still are suffering. Job losses have been in the tens of thousands and there really is no end in sight. In my opinion there should be far more investment in tourism using the billions in fines paid by BP.

That money needs to be used to help recover the parts of the economy that indirectly suffered in the aftermath. When the day comes and tourists start returning to our beautiful coastline we need to be prepared. The last thing we want to have happen is that they start arriving and we are not prepared or not able to offer the same level of service as before.