Interviewee: Roscoe Liebig

Role: Bait fisherman, bait shop owner, former shrimper

Date of Interview: 10/13/11

Collection: Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History Project

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

Abstract: Roscoe Liebig learned to shrimp as a high school student because he wanted to be a commercial shrimper. He learned to build and maintain his own boats, and he has made a good living shrimping in the wetlands and the sea on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He talks about the inequity of BP's compensation for losses suffered by people in the seafood industry after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.


BP [British Petroleum] was worse than Katrina. When BP hit here, there's some of the stupidest things I've ever seen – some of the other things – but you could take, like, this business here. This barge – [the bait shop is built on a barge] – was in the harbor, and we were starting to frame that wall [gesturing] when the oil well blew up. And BP, the well blew up; we held off production of this because within a few weeks, I kept watching the closures coming this way. I said, "I'm not going to build this with closures coming." And within a few weeks, everything was closed. And the craziest thing is the way they did this money or whatever they call it because I know of certain people that's got – I own three commercial boats. I had three commercial boats at the time and a fourth one being built. My ex-wife got one of the little boats. So I had four boats and a bait business. I know of deckhands that got more money than I got out of it. I mean, it's outrageous. I mean, I got a measly thirty-thousand-dollar check for six months, and my taxes on the water range from $80,000 to $120,000. And they really ticked me off. I mean, I had a darn, whatever you want to call a scrub, deckhand on the boat, barely ever worked on a boat?I've went bait fishing, and I grab him on the side when I need him?pull up in here, and next thing you know, he says, "Roscoe, I got to go home. I got a eighteen-thousand-dollar check sitting there, waiting for me." And I was adding up. I said, "I get thirty thousand, and I got this. And this guy don't own a boat, nothing, and got 75 percent of what they paid me in comparison." I know of some of them that own one boat; I'm hearing they got a hundred-thousand-dollar check! I mean, the way they [BP] did it, it was ignorant. I call it stupid money because they know these people are going to lie. And what I didn't understand is this big company, the smartest thing, it seemed to me, this company should have did is set these claim sites up for your restaurants and all this stuff. Then you got your water. The land stops; the water starts. What would have been so hard for them to say, "If you got a commercial boat, you're a commercial fisherman. Be in the harbor you're ported out of." And they could have sent five or six representatives to each harbor and legitimately have done it. I mean, they could have said, "Tell all your deckhands to be here." I mean, they could have had some other way to do it, rather than saying to everybody, "What did you do?" You know a bunch of them are going to lie, and a bunch of them did lie. But does it seem smarter to you? If I was BP, I'd say, "I want representatives in this harbor and every other commercial harbor on the Coast." And then there ain't no hearsay because some of them are saying they got boats, that didn't have boats. I mean, it would've been so much easier to legitimately say, "Who had what, and who was hurt the most?" I mean, you can take me. My bait shop was completely shut down. I held off building the shop. So this summer here, I had to catch bait and build this shop at the same time. While I catch bait every night, when it should have been built before the baits even got there. Instead, I had to put this on hold, wait for everything to open up?my divorce slowed it down a little bit, but that's done there now?and finally get built, and what did I get? A thirty-thousand-dollar check!

To listen to Roscoe's interview, click here.