Deep Water Horizon - George Jackson

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Interviewee: George Jackson

Role: Commercial Fisherman, Louisiana Wetlands

Date of Interview: 5/24/12

Collection: Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: George Jackson is a second-generation fisherman in the Louisiana wetlands, where he is weathering very hard times in the fishing industry. He speaks about some of the reasons it is hard for him to make a living from fishing, including a plethora of shrimpers and crabbers putting too much pressure on shrimp and crab fisheries; disappearing estuaries and wetlands, which are nurseries for shrimp and crabs; the practice of catching and marketing too-small crabs; and the loss of rights to set nets to catch finfish. He explains the differences between gillnets, trammel nets, and seine nets.

Transcript: There's too many people in the commercial industry right now to do – like I'm saying: there's too much pressure on one thing, either shrimp or crabs. Oyster fishermen, they own their own leases and stuff like that. It's different. But as far as like, we don't have no more finfish. Can't fish. The only way you can fish finfish if you're fishing with a hook and line or a trotline. There's no more nets. Crab fishermen, everybody that you could think of owns a crab license now. And that's the same way with the shrimp; they own shrimp license. And it's too much pressure on them [the shrimp] because we don't have the estuary that we did years ago. The land's steady disappearing, and they don't have nowhere to breed. That's like we need a estuary to stop people, like Bagetta Island and Caernarvon and all that. There's a big spot of land that's bayous and lagoons and stuff like that. Well, now, them bayous and lagoons, everybody's got a crab trap, so they catching crabs four or five inches long, and they selling them. It don't give the crab enough time to grow, to move to the outside where you catch good crabs, where you make good money. They fish factory for forty, fifty cents, and if the crabs would get out further, they worth a dollar and more. But it's, "We want to make this money now. We're going to go catch, no matter what size crabs they are." And it messes up everything. It messes up the whole ecosystem. That's not counting all the redfish. Redfish, drums, sheepshead and any other kind of fish around here that feeds on crabs and shrimp and stuff like that, it's taking from the fish industry, too, but we can't get a finfish industry open down here anymore because of Wildlife and Fisheries. I was in the deal with the redfish deal. I think it was in the [19]90s. We went up there, and we had a bad freeze – I think in [19]88, somewhere around there, [19]88 or [19]90, somewhere around there; it depleted the redfish because it froze everything. It killed everything. Well, we agreed to close the season for five years. And within the five years, let it repopulate. Well, within the five years, the GCCA come in there and lobbyists and everything else, and made a game fish out of the redfish, so we couldn't fish redfish no more or finfish, sheepshead, drum, or any other because they took our nets away from us. They wouldn't let us have a trammel net or a seine. They were worried about the gillnets because certain people put gillnets out and left them out. They didn't tend to their nets like they was supposed to, and the recreational fishermen seen dead fish, floating, and wound up a big humbug. But the real fishermen that fish with trammel nets or seines and stuff like that, they was hurt, too, because of the guys that was fishing with the gillnets. So it took the whole finfish away from everybody. And that's what I'm saying. It's been since the [19]90s, and there ain't no way we can get back in to bring the finfish back to us, where we can separate a little bit, and everybody make a dollar here or there. Because like I'm saying, the crabs right now? I been fishing for forty years, and I ain't never seen it as worse as it is right now. It's been going on way back, but BP killed it. I think we lost a few crops of crabs because after BP, we didn't see no more little crabs. Now, we finally – it's what? Two years, almost three years, we starting to finally see a couple of little crabs come back.

To listen to George's interview, click here.