Saturday, March 03, 2012

BP, Obama, the Gulf of Mexico oil blow out, and the shrimp industry

A top story in the news is that BP is paying out 7.8 billon dollars in a settlement for the Gulf of Mexico oil blow out in April of 2010. For some odd reason there is no mention of president Obama’s role in what is the largest oil polluting incident in US history. But what about Obama’s culpability in the matter which has been overlooked by the main stream news media?


The Obama administration joined BP in quashing environmental challenges to Gulf drilling in 2009 legal actions by Ken Salazar, Obama’s Secretary of Interior. They asked the federal court of appeals in Washington, DC to overturn their decision that blocked new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico’s outer continental shelf, referring to the same area where the explosion later occurred.

The appeals court partially approved Salazar’s petition, with the condition that the administration produce an environmental impact study for Gulf of Mexico drilling operations. The Obama administration granted BP a “categorical exemption” from producing a legally required environmental impact study and approved its exploration plan for the location of the future spill.

I think it needs to be said that I have no sympathy what-so-ever for the shrimp industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Shrimp are caught by the use of drag nets that scrape the ocean bottom like road graders destroying everything in their path along the ocean bottom. Obscene doesn’t begin to describe the Gulf shrimp industry and what it does. For every pound of shrimp ten pounds of dead and dying sea life are tossed back into the Gulf as “bycatch.” The shrimp industry is one of the most disgusting industries ever developed by humans.


Mike Hagler of Greenpeace recently completed an extensive study entitled "Shrimp—The Devastating Delicacy." He concluded that the true costs of "all the shrimp you can eat" markets in America, Europe, and Japan are being paid by poorer people living in coastal areas in countries such as India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Honduras, and Ecuador. Japan and America currently consume one third of the world's marketed shrimp, but as prospects for China's growing middle class improve, an increase in this burden is inevitable.

The destructive nature of shrimp rearing is compounded by its disastrous effects on mangroves, tropical trees whose stiltlike roots form dense thickets along tidal shores. Mangrove forests offer key nursery grounds for many fish and invertebrates. By the year 2000, more than half of the world's mangrove forests had been destroyed; half of that was due to shrimp farming, a practice equivalent to the clearcutting of coastal forests. The destruction is accelerating even as you read this. Nils Kautsky from the University of Stockholm says that the "footprint," or sphere of influence, of a fish or shrimp farm on the local environment can be 50,000 times larger than the farm itself. And the chemical and mineral modifications caused by the shrimp make the abandoned farms useless for other crops.

The downside of shrimp trawling is less apparent than that of shrimp farming, but equally depressing. Imagine a fleet of 13,000 boats dragging nets that scrape the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Besides the shrimp, a wasteful bycatch of mackerel, snapper, croaker, and a host of other creatures is netted, causing them to steadily decline. A more appropriate term would actually be "bykill." Worldwide, shrimp fisheries discard 9.5 million metric tons of dead and dying non-shrimp creatures—including many endangered marine turtles—at a ratio often as great as ten pounds of bycatch to one pound of shrimp.


Dean Blanchard, a leading shrimp producer from Grand Isle, Louisiana, before the spill, was adamant: payment would not be enough.

"I want my day in court," he said. "If they can get off with just paying the money – well, they've got plenty of money, they are not really going to learn a lesson.

"I'd like to make sure this never happens again. Somebody has got to hold BP's feet to the fire. They have just gotten away with throwing money at problems, but that doesnt get rid of the problems."

While I agree with Blanchard regarding BP I would also like to see Blanchard go to the lowest rung in hell where he belongs along with Obama and BP. The picture above courtesy of shows the victims of bycatch.