Deep Water Horizon - Joseph Jewell

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Interviewee: Joseph Jewell

Role: Administrator, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources

Date of Interview: 10/12/11

Collection: Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History Project

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

Abstract: Joseph Jewel grew up in a commercial fishing family. He became the Deputy Director of the Office of Marine Fisheries at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. He speaks of the negative effects on the Gulf Coast fisheries from Hurricane Katrina, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and the opening off the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

Transcript: Well, we really have had three major events that have adversely impacted the local fishermen here: There's Katrina, BP oil spill, and then the opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway. It's been really a domino effect, one right after the other, and it has really negatively impacted not only the fishery, the overall landings, and the economic benefit to the state, but the individual fisherman. This is their livelihood. This is how they pay their rent, their mortgages. They send their kids to college. This had a very negative effect on them, their inability to achieve that income. And in the instance of BP oil spill, many of them have been able to make claims, some substantial claims from that impact. So they're still struggling with that. A lot of people are still struggling from Katrina because Katrina did multiple things on multiple levels to most people here, but especially the fishermen. All the infrastructure for fishermen, most of it, was either destroyed or significantly damaged. And unlike a lot of other industries that had significant damage, a lot of that has not been built back for a lot of different reasons. One, right after the storm occurred, waterfront property really became a premium. And so there wasn't a lot of rebuilding because that property became very valuable. So building a wharf, a dock, a harbor, a commercial harbor, versus probably some other facility where you could get a lot more money for the property, became a lot more lucrative process. So they didn't see a restoration in that sense, and still haven't. So they're really suffering in that sense. There was no icehouses built. So if they wanted to get back out and fish after Katrina, they didn't have the ability to get ice to go out and do it. Fuel prices just soared. And of course, just when they thought they were going to get an even-level season, then BP oil hit. And then as you know, all of the state waters were closed for a short period of time, just under two months, and that may seem small to most people, but that period of time was right during the height and the most productive part of the shrimping season. That's when most of the shrimp are typically in the Mississippi Sound. That's when most of the shrimpers make their most profits, their largest catches, and they were unable to get out and shrimp during that time. And then this year, as they're moving towards their first open year, after BP, their first – the Bonnet Carré spillway opened. And the good thing was, is that most of that water, unlike the last time the Bonnet Carré was opened, that water came all the way over to the Gulfport ship channel and made significant negative impacts on the marine resources at that time. But this time, when it opened, most of that water flowed southward through the Breton and Chandeleur Sound area. So it did have impacts on us. It did have negative impacts on the crab and oysters here. It had a lesser impact on shrimp, but it did have an impact. And so our fishermen – and most of that was confined to the western Mississippi Sound. So they really have had a triple whammy. It's been very difficult for them. It's been a hard process for them both economically and emotionally. They've had to deal with this at different levels than you or I would have to deal with it. So it's been very hard for them.

To listen to Joseph's interview, click here.