Louisiana oyster industry leaders say BP has yet to honor a $15 million commitment to help oyster farmers, processors and dealers recover from last year’s oil spill. Members of a state oyster task force joined state officials in New Orleans today to discuss the spill, which began after the BP-leased rig Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers. The industry leaders say the money was promised last fall. It would be used to restore seeding areas affected by the spill. “Without that $15 million down payment. It could be devastating to the oyster community,” says Mike Voisin, head of a family-owned oyster processing and sales business in Terrebonne Parish.”
Voisin says the industry typically puts $360 million into the state economy in a given year, but that it generated half that amount this past year and will likely be about half that in the coming years, until oyster beds are fully restored. He says it typically takes three to four years for an oyster to grow to market size. Officials say the restoration efforts would include the placing of “cultch” material, on which oyster larvae grow. Some funding would be used to research seeding and growing techniques that would expedite growth.
A BP spokeswoman did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press for comment. “There was definitely a verbal agreement,” says Randy Pausina, assistant secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Garret Graves, head of the state’s coastal restoration efforts agreed. Participants in today’s news conference also complained about the slow processing of claims by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the agency established to dole out $20 billion to those with losses attributable to the spill.