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'We haven't recovered,' Coast fishermen say on 6th anniversary of BP oil spill

JEFF CLARK/SUN HERALD 
 Shrimp boat owner Melonie Johnson peacufully protests the BP oil spill during a six-year anniversary service.
JEFF CLARK/SUN HERALD Shrimp boat owner Melonie Johnson peacufully protests the BP oil spill during a six-year anniversary service.

BILOXI -- Members of the Coast fishing industry gathered Wednesday at Sherman Caan Back Bay Fishing Dock in East Biloxi to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the BP oil spill. Those in attendance were a mixture of fishermen, oystermen and members of the Vietnamese fishing community.

The commemoration was organized by fishing activist Thao Vu of the Mississippi Coalition for Vietnamese Fisher Folks and Families. About 15 people attended the ceremony, carrying protest signs to show their continued frustration with the oil company.

Vu began the ceremony with a prayer for the 11 people who perished during the deepwater oil rig explosion that released more than 100 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf Of Mexico.

"East Biloxi used to be the fresh seafood capitol of the world," Vu said with Biloxi Bay as her backdrop. "But look at it since the BP oil spill six years ago."

Vu said the effects of disaster, one of the worst ecological disasters in history, are still hindering recovery.

"There are representatives here from diverse multi-generational families," she said. "This used to be a very active fishing industry -- it was thriving and it helped build up the Gulf Coast -- and BP happened and we haven't recovered from it."

She said the industry had started to rebound after 2005's Hurricane Katrina but it has been severely damaged by the 2010 spill.

Yolanda Ferguson said her husband had a successful trawl business before 2010. But she said the Deepwater Horizon disaster has left the family business in shambles.

"My husband is having to travel these days to find other work just to take care of us," she said.

In July, Gov. Phil Bryant announced the state would be receiving $1.5 billion in settlement money from BP.

Ferguson said she hasn't seen a dime of the money.

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