Oil spill affects Demopolis business

Published 12:22 am Saturday, May 15, 2010

Only now is the oil spill from a British Petroleum oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico reaching the gulf shores of Louisiana and Mississippi, but the spill has already affected business right here in Demopolis.

Cajun Boy seafood, making its name from bringing fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, is already suffering from the affects that the April 20 oil spill has had on the sea life. All fishers have been kept in drydock while recovery efforts are under way to halt the oil gushing from the gulf floor and collect the oil that has been pumping into the gulf since the accident.

Cajun Boy co-owner Tim Harrison said that this seafood season is likely a bust in the Gulf.

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“Shrimp season generally opens in the first week of June,” he said in a telephone interview from the Gulf. “It hasn’t been official, but more than likely, it’s going to be closed. The plan was for my boat to provide all the shrimp to the market.

“My brother did all of the crabbing, and now, the crabbing is closed. I was selling them for $25 a dozen for No. 1 blue crabs. Now, I would have to sell crabs for $60 a dozen to make any money.

“I think this season is ruined,” Harrison said. “BP is hiring some of the boats, and I hope to get my boat hired. In fact, that’s where I was the other day. I got a call at midnight to bring my boat 10 hours away from my port, so we had to leave out at midnight and travel over to Pascagoula.

“We got a little training, but we had to re-rig our boats. We had to take all the nets off and all of the fishing equipment and rig them for recovery work.”

Despite its role in the oil spill, Harrison supports BP’s efforts in trying to contain it.

“I think BP is really, really trying to make things right,” he said. “The negative talk, I think, is uncalled for. As much as it’s hurt me and my business, this is an accident, and it’s unfortunate, but I really think they’re doing the best they can.”

Harrison said that working for BP would only supplement his financial needs.

“Opening season makes or breaks you for the whole year,” he said. “At the open of the season, the shrimp will stay above the sands 24 hours a day, and I can shrimp them 24 hours a day, and it lasts three to four weeks. Over that time, I can make $30,000 or $40,000. That’s not going to happen this year.”

While Mobile and ports along the Tombigbee River keep their eyes on the development of the oil spill as it grows and moves towards Alabama, Demopolis has already seen a devastating effect on its commerce. The once brilliant promise of a fresh seafood store is now at best temporarily put on hold.