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Oil Spill Affecting Fishermen in Affected Area

Oil spills are any release of oil or oil products (such as various distillates: gasoline, diesel fuels, heavy oils, etc.) in the environment, being it accidental or intentional. Depending on how large an oil spill is, its negative effects may be resented beyond the environment in which oil is spilled. When a big oil spill occurs (involving thousands of gallons or more of spilled oil) humans may be affected in various ways. People who may be affected from a large oil spill which usually occurs in oceans (like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or Exxon Valdez oil spill close to Alaska Coast – in the 90’s) include:

  • Residents of the coastal affected areas;
  • Recreational and commercial fishermen from affected areas
  • Shipworkers in the affected area
  • Seamen in the affected areas
  • Hotel and restaurants owners in the affected areas
  • Business people from affected areas

Oil Spill Affecting Fishermen in the Area

Recreational and commercial fishermen are directly affected by large marine oil spills (such as Exxon Valdez oil spill from the 1990’s or the recent BP Oil Spill from the Gulf of Mexico) due to potential contamination of fish species swimming in the oil polluted water, along with ecosystem livelihoods.

Fishermen are negatively affected by a large oil spill in various ways, some of which are listed below:

  • Fellow fishermen lose their jobs for possible extended periods of time due to government bans and restrictions on fishing which could be extended for large periods of time – until the oil spill is stopped and the clean-up of all oil pollution is completed. Tens of thousands of square miles may be closed to fishing when large oil spills ocurs
  • Commercial fishermen who own their boats may lose them by:
    • not being financially solvable to finish any boat payments they may have
    • not being able to exploit them and put them to a “good use” for a long time
  • Recreational activities such as fishing may be banned for a long time affecting many people who enjoy this popular activity; this may negatively reflect in people’s health, too due to decreasing outdoor activities and generally the time spent outside in unpolluted environments;
  • Psychological effects may appear in affected fishermen – since any fisherman is usually fond of water and the daily activity related to fishing. It is quite common that this profession is transmitted from father to son and stays in a family from generations. When such family tradition is suddenly broken due to fishing restrictions as a result of large oil spills, the affected fishermen may never recover psychologically. They may go on with their lives, may find other jobs, may simply survive. But they may never be the same! Being hard to predict and quantify in terms of dollar loss, this aspect is maybe the most subtle and dangerous one. This could develop into serious social problems in the affected areas. Unfortunately, there are no remedies for those fishermen with family traditions except getting back to commercially fishing again. This, however, may take a while.
  • General economical drop in the living area affects fishermen and any residents from affected area. Even if a fisherman is willing to start a new job and life, there may be limited options due to the general economic downturn as a result of oil spill.
  • Possible health effects due to exposure to the spilled oil or its volatile compounds may appear. Such health effects are obviously not restricted to fishermen, but the general population (residents) who live in the affected area.
  • Uncertainty factor may have disturbing effects. In the case of the BP recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we are all hearing in the media all sort of estimates related to how much oil is released daily, when would the spill be stopped, what would be the long-term effects? - as BP and Coast Guard release various estimates and as our knowledge and understanding of the spill evolves. It is still early to predict the exact effects and one should just wonder “when will it stop?”

On a different note, it should be noted that restrictions of fishing in areas affected by oil spills are necessary since consumption of contaminated fish could have serious health effects especially due to the bioaccumulation of some chemicals in fish. Such chemicals are also between the compounds found in oil (such as PAHs- polyaromatic hydrocarbons).