Greater New Orleans Foundation Uses Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund to Help Fishermen Facing Threat to Livelihood

Greater New Orleans Foundation Uses Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund to Help Fishermen Facing Threat to Livelihood
May 25, 2010
PR Newswire

NEW ORLEANS, May 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As southeast Louisiana's fishing communities watch the ongoing oil disaster which threatens their economy and way of life, the Greater New Orleans Foundation is using a grant from its Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund to help support critical services for fishermen.
In the coastal parishes of Louisiana most affected by the oil spill, there are over 6,400 licensed commercial fishers, many of whose families have been fishing for generations. Nearly one-third of the nation's seafood is harvested in Louisiana waters. "Commercial fishermen face unemployment short-term and possibly long-term which is why the first grant from our Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund went to support a center where fishermen can go for business help," says Marco Cocito-Monoc, director of regional initiatives at the Greater New Orleans.
The Seedco Financial Southeast Louisiana Fisheries Assistance Center in Belle Chasse is a one-stop center providing information and resources to commercial fishermen directly impacted by the April 20 Gulf oil spill. More than 400 clients have accessed the Center's services because of the oil spill, and additional clients seek support every day. The Greater New Orleans Foundation has granted $50,000 to the center from its Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund.
"During these uncertain times, our commercial fishermen need a place to turn to get real-time information," says Seedco Financial Senior Vice President Robin Barnes. "Along with Small Business Administration counselors, fluent in Vietnamese and Spanish, fishermen receive advice about claims, job opportunities, disaster loans, and business assistance."
There are over 130 marinas in these parishes and over 400 licensed charter guides in the impacted parishes.
Neil Beshel is part owner of the Beshel Boat Launch in East Pointe a la Hache where he has worked since age 12. The boat launch is still being rebuilt from Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding having been set back due to damage from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
"It's hard to keep people working and keep families fed when you don't have any income coming in," said Beshel. Oil has not come as far north as Pointe a la Hache, but with it washing up further south in Louisiana's marshes, Beshel, his employees, and the fishermen who buy bait and fuel from his store are worried. Some fishing areas along the coast remain open, while others have been closed.
Robert Whittington crabbed for 25 years until he lost his boat in Katrina. He now works at the Beshel Boat Launch. "It's hard to say what's going to happen because of the oil, if we'll even have a business. The future is undecided," said Whittington.
Chris Danos, who also works at the Beshel Boat Launch, said, "People are just getting recovered from Katrina, paying off all their loans from Katrina, and this was the year that they were going to make money to put in their pocket. So now they're back to square one. It's putting a lot of people under a lot of stress, worrying about when they're going to make their next payments on their houses and cars and everything else."
Bernard Picone has been in the oyster business for 13 years, and fished crabs and shrimp before that. After Katrina, the Fisheries Assistance Center helped him get a loan to fix his boat. "It really helped me stay in the oyster business, so that way I could fix my boat and go back to work, with all of the equipment that I needed. If it hadn't been for them, it would have taken me a lot longer to fix my boat," Picone said.
The Greater New Orleans Foundation will continue to monitor the effects of the oil spill on local communities and to use its Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund to make grants. To donate go to
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