UCFA Newsletter 2012 Newsletter
Dear Friends and Members, and Potential Members
I hope this newsletter finds you able to hold on until we get paid by BP or until the courts get around to actually making it right.
I know it has been a long time since we have been able to put a newsletter together and get it out to you. There have been numerous battles UCFA has stood strong protecting your rights and way of life both pre- and post-BP oil spill. I know some of the issues covered in the newsletter may seem outdated; however, it is information that needs to be presented. We urge you to read each issue thoroughly so you can understand fully what happened and who made it happen.
As I write this I am flying to Santa Barbara to help with the premier of the Dirty Energy documentary at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. I will be concentrating on not only telling the story of what happened then, but also about what is still going on today. Last year at this time, I was flying home from Seattle after attending the Work Boat show where I participated in panel discussions and presentations throughout the Seattle area. While I was there, I completed about three-fourths of the newsletter for last year, but, unfortunately, it was in my suitcase with the T-shirts and DVD’s that never made it home. As you can imagine, I was disgusted and already overwhelmed with the heavy schedule of meetings that required our presence. I have tried numerous times to redo the old newsletter, as well as bring us up to date, but I really never had the time. Not an excuse, just a reason.
In the spring of 2010, I was already over-worked and under-paid. I had spent 5 years of steering the campaign to help the industry try to rebuild. I worked closely with board members and numerous individual members, teaming up with other real commercial fishing associates to secure millions of dollars in direct grants to the fishing industry. In the Katrina grants, the fishermen shared approximately 80% of the funding, dealers shared 5%, and about 15% went to administration. The need greatly outweighed the funding so the fishermen shared the pot on a tier system based on historical production. It was not a perfect system, but the majority of the fishermen got what they deserved. The major flaw here was that, after the storm, there were a few boats that survived and were able to slam the shrimp that had schooled up as a result of little fishing pressure. There was a small percentage of shrimpers who were lucky enough to miss the direct hit. The scenario developed where some shrimpers who missed the storm made a lot of money and also got a disaster check. AJ, Clint and I offered ways to circumvent this, but the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries decided to launch the program without our recommendations. This caused a lot of animosity between fishermen, and rightfully so. As you can imagine, watching some shrimpers from an area that escaped devastation catch all the shrimp while you try to find the resources to rebuild your vessel – only to later discover that he got as much as you to replace something he did not lose, taking money away from those really hurting – would infuriate any hard-working man. That was the system, for better or worse, but the underlying fact is that if it were not for the associations advocating for you, there would be no money to hand out. I did hear of some cases where the ones catching all the shrimp did not cash the checks or sent them back. A high-five to those who did that.
We had pulled in quite a few new members after Katrina, but, unfortunately, after the grant funding ran out, so did their dues. At least those were better than the fishermen who received all the benefits we got for them and never contributed a dime.
I was already overwhelmed and told the board that I could not keep up this pace even though we were raising enough money to keep the association afloat. There was not enough to cover the cost of my being at all the meetings. We had asked the membership to contribute 1% of their Katrina grant and then again for the Gustav/Ike funding. Very few people participated in the funding program. Consequently, at the end of 5 years of securing funding and legislative advantages for our industry, I was owed approximately $30,000 with no hope of raising the money to square up with me.
Once again, the board met looking for solutions. We did not want to lose our seats on the oyster, fish, shrimp and crab task forces, as well as all the connections we had developed after 18 years of advocacy work. But, I could not go any further in the hole. Before we could begin to solve the problem, we were hit with a bigger problem – the BP Oil Spill (Geyser).
Once again, UCFA stepped up to the plate by trying to educate the public on what was really going on and what the potential was for this being even worse than Katrina was for us. Clint Guidry, President of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, and I hit the ground running. Sometimes, he would hit one meeting while I attended another.
Whenever possible, we would attend together to exhibit the unity among the different fishermen. The only problem we encountered was when processors like Mike Voision and Harlon Pearce would show up at the same meetings and give testimony that was problematic. It gave Ken Fienberg and B.P. some wiggle room to attempt to discredit the real fishermen. The last time this was an issue, I told Fienberg to confer with real fishermen to find out where we stand and, if he wanted to know how dealers and processors were doing, to go ask them. However, do not assume that processors have a handle on what’s going on out there.
If I never have to attend another meeting again, it will be too soon. After Fienberg was appointed, another series of meetings arose. We attended numerous meetings to educate Mr. Fienberg on what must be considered in the interim claims and final claims process. We were skeptical, but we had no choice other than to participate with our best foot forward and hope for an equitable outcome.
Our suspicious minds were confirmed. For the career fishermen, the time and energy spent preparing their interim claim and subsequent final offer was an insult. Over 85% of the real fishermen received a “$0” interim claim offer and a mere $25,000 final offer. This was absurd, as many of the fishermen claimants caught that much in just one month. Further attempts to loosen up the offers proved that what he wanted to pay and what we needed to get were worlds apart. Consequently, the real fishermen had no choice but to join the MDL and hope the legal system would compel B.P. to come up with an equitable settlement offer. If not, we would have to find a way to dig in for the legal battle and hope the punitive damage award would be worth the wait.
As I am writing, these negotiations are still in progress. Once Judge Barbier signs off on the proposal, it will once again be an individual decision for the claimant to determine if it is equitable or not.
Once again we must wait to find out what our financial future is.
Heartland Loves the Gulf
Just as with Katrina, the BP Spill brought many people to our area to see what they could do to help. Gary Walker – aka The King of Green from Kansas City, Missouri – is one of the good guys who came to our aid. Jerry Sabin, an old college roommate of mine, works in the same community with his business, Elements of Green, and gave Gary my number. Gary called and was hell-bent on going to clean up oil in Venice. I tried to convince him that BP and the Coast Guard would not let him anywhere near the oil or the real clean up or cover up. After a couple of days of no luck and near arrests, Gary called again and confided that they treated him like a spy. I reminded him of our first conversation and then invited Gary to come shrimping with me before my area was closed.
We shrimped for 24 hours and caught about what we normally would have harvested. (Keep in mind the oil and dispersants had not gotten that far into the estuary yet). I dropped Gary off in Shell Beach so he could get home and spread the truth of what was really going on down here. Gary shook my hand and made the comment “I do not know why anyone would want to work that hard to earn a living, but I am going to help you save it.” I told him goodbye, thinking of the many people who promised to help the fishermen after Katrina and never came back. Two weeks later, Gary called to inform me that he had setup a fund raiser for UCFA at Gail’s Harley Davidson in Kansas City. When I asked what he was going to cook, he calmly replied “Your shrimp.”
With that Heartland Loves the Gulf was born. Darrel and Keegan Pecar loaded up the commercial boiler, Dean Blanchard got me some large Louisiana shrimp, and we took off to Kansas City. My good friend Bob Caretto, another post-Katrina small savior, also came and helped with the event, as did Barb Nuetzmann. We sold BP T-shirts, got donations for Dr. Ott’s Book, Sound Truths and Corporate Myths, and threw a good-ole Louisiana shrimp boil.
Many thanks to the many volunteers, Gary’s workers at Magic Touch Cleaning, Jerry and Martha Sabin, Gail and her crew. The event was an overwhelming success, and it gave UCFA enough resources to maintain our presence at essential meetings without having to ask the fisherman to contribute at a time when all of our futures were uncertain.
Temporary Oyster Harvest Area Extension
The 2009 oyster state ground season was shaping up to be very bleak. Most of the state ground areas had already been diminished by local boats using the ground for both sack and seed. To make matters worse, much of the area had been destroyed by irresponsible out-of-state oyster harvesters who were there only for the day and unconcerned with the long-term impact to the resource.
Fellow member Robert Campo, already instrumental in getting the state ground expanded in the Lake Borgne area several years before, came up with the proposal to have a temporary sack oyster harvest in an area of Lake Borgne inside the red line, but still not leased. We talked it over with the primary leaseholders in the area and developed a plan that we could propose to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission under an Emergency Declaration. Fellow member Fred Everhardt, a parish council member at the time, and I went to work on getting all the political support we would need to pull this off. After several weeks of meetings and considerable amount of UCFA resources, we made our united presentation to the commission members, all of whom had been briefed on the situation. History was made that day. The commission voted unanimously to support our proposal in the face of direct opposition from some of the department. One of the main reasons for our success was that the room was packed with supporters, and all the necessary ground work had been done through long-standing connections made through UCFA’s years of advocacy work for the industry. Make no mistake; had UCFA not proposed the plan and backed it up with political support, it would not have been passed.
The result: over 146,000 sacks were harvested from that area in that short extension, a $3.5 million dollar economic impact for the area. $3.5 million of economic stimuli to pay bills, fix boats, buy fuel from Campo’s and Amigo’s, buy supplies from Poydras Hardware, and allow leaseholder to let their private grounds settle and rest for a little while. Because of all the cooperative efforts from Brad with the task force, Fred with the politicians, and George with the LDWF and commission, UCFA had steered the course for yet another win-win-win scenario. Many oyster harvesters – both members and non-members alike – promised to pay $0.25 per sack to UCFA in appreciation for securing the special season.
As you can probably predict, that never happened. UCFA bore most of the cost to acquire this huge benefit for the industry and community with only about 42 oyster fishermen as full-time members. The point I am trying to make here is look at the difference we were able to make with just that little bit of support. Just think of what we could accomplish if every oyster fisherman were a contributing member. And by “contributing member,” I mean staying personally and financially committed. I know a lot of you are going to be receiving some considerable funding from the B.P. settlement, which was also enhanced by production from this area extension. Consequently, if you would like to renew your commitment of $0.25 a sack, you can check your production records (via your trip ticket sheets that you prepared for your lawsuit) and send a check to UCFA. It would be greatly appreciated, as funding is at an all-time low given the circumstances surrounding the B.P. spill. Many of you are going to be giving Uncle Sam a considerable amount of tax money, and any amount you send to UCFA in this manner would qualify as a tax-deductible business expense. The only thing the government is going to do with your tax money is put you out of business with more rules and fresh water diversions. It is obvious that everyone would be better off if you consider using that tax deduction to help maintain a trade association that has had your back for almost 20 years. THINK IT OVER!!!
You can’t run your business without adequate funding, so how can you expect the board to keep on accomplishing miracles? Often times, they end up donating their time and personal money for the benefit of the whole industry. We currently have a small window of opportunity to take some tax money away from Uncle Sam, using it instead to develop a funding program which would allow us to move the office out of George’s house and also hire someone full-time to tend to the daily needs of the association. The choice is yours.
On April 20, 2010, all of our lives and plans were drastically changed and unwillingly thrown into an entirely different direction. Right before the spill, things were actually looking up a bit. Fuel prices had come down, the impact of the shrimp strikes had a positive effect on the shrimp prices, oyster prices were solid, and a projection of a good brown shrimp crop had established a feeling of optimism that had been absent since Katrina. All that changed in an instant through the gross negligence of corporate giant British Petroleum.
When the B.P. well blew, it once again put all of our lives in turmoil and futures on hold. And what did this mean for UCFA? MEETINGS, more and more meetings, and I was already overwhelmed with all the post-Katrina, post-Ike, post-Gustav, Oyster Task Force, Shrimp Task Force, fresh water diversion, TEDs in skimmers, Catholic Charities, and legislative meetings. On top of that, add the new barrage of meetings that required our attendance and input because, if history has shown us but one thing, it’s that if you’re not at the table, you won’t get a crumb. Fortunately, Clint Guidry – the President of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, on which I serve as a board member for the east side of the river – had previously agreed to accept a full-time, paid position as the representative for the shrimp industry, so we were able to attend many of the meetings together, as well as split up when we had to, thereby enabling us to cover meetings in difficult areas. Clint had kept a list of the major government-related meetings, and I believe it totaled over 130 in 4 months, and that’s not including the meetings between ourselves and other impacted industry representatives. Keep in mind that Clint did not participate in the Vessel of Opportunity (VoO) program, and I only did for a short period, as we felt our influence at the meetings would be better for the industry in the long run.
UCFA funds were already depleted before the spill, however, with disaster comes help. With the assistance of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) as a fiscal agent we secured funds by way of a small funding grant from the Gulf Coat Fund, a small funding grant from the St. Bernard chapter of the Greater New Orleans Kiwanians, the Heartland Loves the Gulf fundraiser, and our anti-B.P. t-shirt sales. The only reason I was able to attend and represent UCFA’s membership, as well as the needs of the whole industry, was because of these initiatives to which I personally contributed. I’ll make the offer once again: if anyone out there has the time, energy, and money and would like to take my place, please, call anytime.
New Oyster Task Force Representative
UCFA was finally given two seats on the Oyster Task Force after much pressure from our representatives. George Barisich was serving in the interim until UCFA could hold an election. Dana Brocato, an oyster dealer and former shucking-house operator (pre-Katrina) was elected 5 years ago and served with honor. Although she was new to the game, she caught on quickly, and together, she and Brad Robin represented our interests and concerns. On behalf of all the members, I want to thank Dana for all the time and effort she contributed to the cause over the years.
Brandt Lafrance was elected to serve as Dana’s replacement.
If you have any questions or concerns about the activities of the Oyster Task Force, please feel free to contact Brad Robin at 504-296-8912 or Brandt Lafrance at 504-912-6080.
UCFA Teams Up with LEAN
It does seem long overdue, but to see one of the oldest commercial fishing organizations work in conjunction with one of the oldest environmental organizations in the state is proof that anything is possible. Mary Lee Orr, Director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), contacted me after the oil spill to see what they could do. Having had experience with all types of pollution over the years, she knew this oil spill disaster had no possible positive outcomes. LEAN hit the ground running, gathering up respirators, gloves, and Tyvek suits to distribute to the fishermen hired as clean-up crew workers. However, B.P. would not let the fishermen working VoO wear the respirators, claiming there was no risk of harm. Consequently, the fishermen desperately in need of income chose to remain working without the respirators. Many of those workers are the same people who are still sick today and others have already passed away, though they will not be counted with the eleven workers that perished on the rig. LEAN also supplied me with some small hand-held video cameras so we could document what was really going on out in the gulf since B.P. had the Coast Guard preventing us from telling the truth.
I was able to film “The Last Trip” in July of 2010 using one of those video cameras. Michael Orr took what I had shot and made the short video that became my Youtube debut. To view it, you must search “The Last Trip with George Barisich.” (Luckily for the film, Michael is a far better editor than I am a cameraman.) At the end of the video you will see the anti-B.P. t-shirts we sell to raise awareness and funds for the organizations. Through a contact from Mary Lee, I was also able to do an interview on the show Count Down with Keith Olbermann, and at the end of my interview segment, he let me pitch the shirt to the viewers. We ended up selling 700 t-shirts from that single 4-minute interview, and then another 200 after we shipped those out. Paul Orr called and said that we had a problem – all the orders came at once. I apologized to Paul for all the extra work and worry about getting the shirts packaged and mailed in a timely fashion. Bob Caretto set up a folding and processing table and, two days after we got the envelopes and labels from Paul, they were mailed. After all the practice, I can now fold t-shirts as fast as I can pick shrimp. Once again, the funds raised from the t-shirt sales are what helped float the association without having to lean on the members. We will have a stock of anti-B.P., shrimp, and oyster t-shirts on reserve, as we were only able to sell a few at some of the events we attended.
UCFA and LEAN have been working closely since the first press conference up until last month where LEAN once again served as the fiscal agent for the Save Shell Beach fundraising event. Trent Robinson, another B.P. documentary filmmaker befriended by the industry saw the devastation from Hurricane Isaac and launched a campaign to help Campo’s Marina come back to life. LEAN’s ability to quickly be able to assist with its non-profit charitable status helped the event to be the success it became.
The lesson here is there are some environmentalist that live in the real world and we must be ever-ready and ever-prepared to work in conjunction with anyone who really wants to meet us half way.
LEAN is a 5013c charitable organization, and all donations are tax deductible.
You can donate to LEAN online at: leanweb.org/donate
or mail a check to:
Louisiana Environmental Action Network
PO Box 66323
Baton Rouge, LA 70896
Gustav and Ike Grant Funding
Just like after Hurricane Katrina, UCFA, along with other LSA and other commercial fishing advocates, sought after and helped secure some grant funding to help the impacted fishing and dockside businesses. At first, all they talked about were low-interest loans and SBA, but we informed them that these were not viable options. We participated in numerous meetings to develop a program that was a little more equitable than the Katrina program but still based on historical catch. The major difference this go round was that the docks and processors asked for some help as well. There was some grumbling from some fishermen, but keep in mind that most of the docks recommended that most of the help should go to the fishermen after Katrina because a dock is no good if there are no fishermen out there to catch and bring in product.
Once again, the department went in a direction a little different from industry recommendations. They used a formula loosely based on catch and sales data after Katrina, and, once again, this formula was detrimental to those fishermen and docks that were still trying to recover. Clint and I got the blame for the inequity of the situation, but I can assure you that this is not what we advocated for. In the end, some fishermen and docks received what they deserved, some got screwed, and some got more than they truly deserved. Once, the smoke cleared, all the contributing organizations discovered that the majority of the people who received funding did not financially support any of the organizations.
This result gives some validity to statements of “Why should I pay dues, I am going to get as much as you anyway!,” as made by some fishermen mocking those who do contribute and get involved. This mindset has been a thorn in the side of every attempt that was made to organize and unify the commercial fishing industry. All we can do is hope these naysayers will see the light of day before it is too late.
(Quotes to live by: “Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.”)
B.P. Oil Spill Settlement Safe from VOO Earnings Deductions
Under the American Jurisprudence System, the injured party has an obligation to mitigate their own damages whenever possible. Consequently, B.P. was not overly concerned about what they were paying you under the VOO program; they already knew they owed you some damages, so for them, it was a win-win-win situation. (1) Look good in the public eye, (2) Get the oil cleaned up or protected more cheaply and better than with professional services (of which there were not enough to be hired for a spill of this magnitude, a very important fact for the ensuing campaign), and (3) Whatever the fishermen get paid will come out of any of their future settlements.
Those of us leading interference for the industry knew what they were up to, we just had to figure out a plan to convince them not to deduct VOO payments from any settlements. We had certain things in our favor: (1) Public opinion on our side, (2) B.P.’s contingency plan was virtually non-existent for this large of a spill, and (3) We were putting ourselves in harm’s way to protect where we live and work just to help B.P. reduce its liability and the negative impact on our gulf and estuary fishing and breeding grounds.
However, we had one major hurdle by the name of Ken Fienberg, the hired mouthpiece for B.P. whose whole purpose was to make the industry believe we were going to be “made whole” again. Mr. Fienberg, on numerous occasions, steadfastly stated that all VOO payments would be deducted from any settlements.
We had our work cut out for us, but we never let up on him. Dean Blanchard would verbally beat on him and corner the politicians whenever he could. Tracy Kuhns, Mike Roberts, and Clint Guidry would jam him up whenever he would pop his bald head up around Lafitte. Acy Cooper and Venice gang would attack whenever he strolled into meetings in Venice and Buras. George Barisich, Brad Robin, Charles Robin, Rickey Robin, and Robert Campo never let him breathe when he slid into St. Bernard. George also squeezed him at a public forum in Slidell where 60 Minutes did a report. Catfish Miller and the Mississippi crew chased him into Alabama where he met other fishermen demanding the VOO payments remain separate from any settlements. Sandy Nguyen had all the Vietnamese fishermen she was working with in each area stand in solidarity. The Dardars handled representing their concerns and people. The Charter Boat Association had members at every forum. Catholic Charities got involved, LEAN weighed in, and Aaron Viles of the Gulf Restoration Network supported the position of the industry. Feinberg was scared of Kendra. Local, state, and federal politicians were using their influence to help us with this one. I apologize for not being able to remember everyone involved in this campaign, but the bottom line is we were successful because everyone contributed what they could.
After months of abuse, the announcement was made that VOO payments would not be taken out of any settlements. What did this mean for you? It is best explained in dollars and sense. If your VOO earnings totaled $150,000 and your settlement was also $150,000, you were done. No more money. Essentially, through the efforts of all those fighting for you, you are now allowed to keep both your VOO money and your settlement money. This was a huge win for most fishermen that VOO’d. Once again, only a small percentage of the industry who got that huge windfall belong and support their local and state-wide organizations. If you think this could have been accomplished without all these different entities working together, you are living outside of reality. Once again, I want to thank everyone involved in attending the meetings and holding a steady course toward our common goal.
High-Five to LSA Board Member Ronnie Anderson
Disasters such as Katrina and the B.P. Oil Spill bring out the beast and the worst in people. I have the pleasure of serving on the LSA board alongside a lot of good men and women donating their time and efforts to help fend off all the enemies of our industry. Ronnie Anderson is one of those younger good guys who heard what AJ and I have been saying, “We have to get some new blood on the boards of our associations so they will be able to pick up where we left off.” Ronnie quickly became involved on both the LSA board and the Shrimp Task Force, and after about a year of going to meetings in-state and out-of-state meetings, he began questioning our sanity. He was baffled by how we could have been able to put up with dealing with people who do not want to see you survive while, at the same time, losing so much fishing from not being out on the water.
Not long ago, Ronnie told me that things were really getting tight financially before the B.P. spill. Clint advised everybody of the dangers of working in that environment, but Ronnie told us that he had to go, or he was going to lose everything anyway. After getting hired on with B.P. clean-up crews, Ronnie confided in me that there were some fleets trying to keep all the work for themselves. Ronnie called me, representing boat owners from UCFA, to let everybody know that they were hiring and passed on information about what the hiring managers were looking for and how to get hired on. Several of our big-boat members were able to secure some good VOO work because of Ronnie’s reaching out to all the fishermen who were hurting from the short-term and long-term effects of the spill. Contrary to what some of the environmentalists may say, we do have honorable commercial fishermen.
The Trade Adjustment Act is a law that comes into effect when importers cause the price of domestic products (in our case, shrimp) to fall below a certain level and cause harm to that industry. We know that imports have been harming the shrimp industry for decades, but there are certain thresholds that must be crossed before the act can be invoked. The shrimp industry just missed qualifying for the benefits for several years, mainly because of the way NOAA was reporting production. Several different shrimp industry organizations combined their efforts and used their influence to have changes made in the system. The result was that the shrimp industry qualified for some TAA money in 2009. This is not a direct grant program, meaning that you had to do something for the money. The positive aspect of this program was that both captains and deckhands with certified production in the specified time frame each qualified for up to $12,000 in funding. The first $4,000 was paid to all those who signed up, qualified, and attended the required workshops. The remaining $8,000 was offered to those who completed the first phase and wanted to continue to the next phase in which they would develop and write their own business plans and proposals. Some of the shrimpers who were not informed as a result of not being members of any of the organizations stayed away because they did not understand the program and thought they had to go back to school. Just another benefit of belonging to and staying involved with your local trade association.
The funding enabled shrimpers to buy needed equipment or to pay backlogged bills piling up from a bad season. Thanks again to all those governmental and non-governmental individuals who helped this program come to life for the shrimp industry. The double bonus was that many shrimpers learned a thing or two about the new technology and marketing techniques available for their use today.
Catholic Charities Assistance Grants – Funded Through BRAF
I had met with Tom Costanza over 15 years ago when I was recommended to seek some funding from the U.S. Bishops Campaign for Human Development. I went through a very lengthy process hoping to secure funding to maintain the office and staff because the end result of all our efforts is the stabilization of the coastal communities. At the time, they awarded us a small $500 grant; we were seeking , and actually qualified for, a $50,000 grant. The process then was a huge personal loss for me given the amount of time that I spent attempting to secure the grant.
Tom and I stayed in contact over the years, so when Katrina rolled over the coastal communities, Catholic Charities lent their support. Initially, they distributed supplies, clothes, and help with the recovery process. Tom attended meetings with me as we explored all the potential grant possibilities. Through this process, Tom got a real eye opener as to what the industry has been dealing with over the last two decades. We wrote numerous proposals on the best way to use the limited funding that was secured for industry recovery. Only a few were utilized, with some of the better ones, such as the bio-diesel project, being totally ignored. We stayed in contact and shared information while crossing our fingers and hoping that the process would change. We ran across each other after the spill at the Gulf Aid concert in New Orleans, and Tom pledged to try once again.
This time, the Bishops Campaign for Human Development has their eyes opened to the inevitable devastation the industry would soon encounter. UCFA and several other industry groups received $10,000 operation grants, one of the several that enable UCFA to maintain a presence at all the negotiations for the industry. Catholic Charities became involved with the bishops while holding prayer services at our local rallies, which were held to exhibit some of the inequities of the B.P. cover up. Tom became a staunch advocate for our industry, picking apart all the misinformation supplied by B.P. Through all our meetings, Tom knew that the end result would be as the low- to mid-income fishermen went out of business while waiting for B.P. to “make it right.” Just as we feared after the VOO and emergency funding ran out and Fienberg started his squeeze-out process, many could not catch enough product or the price was so low that a decent profit margin was out of reach. Fishermen and their families were faced with going out of business, losing homes, cars, lights, and food.
Once again, through the connections made over the years, Tom informed me that Catholic Charities was going to be seeking some funding from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF) to help those meet their basic needs. I attended several meetings with Tom, as well as hosting a bus trip to Yscloskey to let John Davies and others see the damages first-hand and be able to talk to area fishermen themselves. The end result was $16 million dollars in funding for Catholic Charities to administer to those impacted fishermen and their families to address their basic needs.
Consumer council groups were established to devise a course of action. There were quite a few problems in the beginning, as Catholic Charities case workers were not familiar with the severity of the situation and they wanted to administer the program as they would any other Catholic Charities program. This was problematic because the program was designed to help every fisherman, regardless of the number of cars, boats, or homes he owned. The only criteria was that they were not able to make any more money because of B.P. and had not received an interim or final payment. We worked the bugs out, but many members of UCFA and LSA got fed up with the process, feeling that they had to “beg for help,” and left the program. We set it up so that the applicants had to attend classes and we cut the checks directly to creditors to assure the funds went where they were supposed to be going. All of these delays caused the funding to come out slower than anticipated, and the consumer council recommended the “Back to the Water” program.
Applicants qualified for funding for fuel or equipment to be ready for the upcoming shrimp and crab season. The program was an immediate success, stimulating a depressed situation. The funds got out quickly and equitably for those who applied and stayed behind the administrators. However, once again, by the time the smoke cleared, the minority of the funding went to the associations that helped get them the funding in the first place. The system is not perfect, but we try to help as many as we can as fairly as we can. UCFA will continue to work with Catholic Charities, for many of the fishermen who were forced to take the $25,000 quick settlement or who did not qualify and have to sue. Until Mother Nature fixes B.P.’s negligence, our future remains unsure.
The Baton Rouge Area Foundation was awarded $100 million from B.P. to help displaced oil field workers. Only $25 million was used, and this is where the funding came from. On behalf of all those who were helped, I would like to thank the Baton Rouge Area Foundation for the grant that helped many of us make it through the hard winter.
Louisiana Workforce Commission
After Hurricane Katrina, Ike and Gustav funding was sent down through the Louisiana Workforce Commission to help fishermen relocate or to develop a new trade. Numerous seminars were setup, but were poorly attended, as the goal was to get the fishermen to do something else. Most of us fish because we want to, or because that is all we know what to do. Doing something else is not an option.
The same problem existed after B.P. offered training for welding and cable installation. A few took advantage of the program, but the majority chose to stick it out as long as they could. Through numerous meetings and hours on input, the powers that be decided to put 25% of the retraining funding to business recapitalization grants. Each area was given a block of funding and it was setup on a first-come, first-served basis. The applicant had to still be commercial fishing and proposing improvements to his existing business. The applicants had to jump through a few hoops, but for the real commercial businesses, it presented almost no problem. UCFA put it out there, but, once again, the majority of the fishermen were so used to getting denied or short-changed that they did not even bother to apply. It was a process, and if you stuck it out, got the required information and proof, one could and did receive a small grant of up to $5,000. As soon as the word got out that it was actually working, the local offices were flooded with proposals, so the funding ran out rather quickly. This is another example of how staying involved and trying to adapt the system to fit our situation can create positive outcomes. Thank you again to everyone involved in the program. We’re looking forward to working with the commission as future opportunities present themselves.
Ice House Project in Yscloskey
The rebuilding of the only ice plant in Yscloskey that remained after the Hurricane Katrina has been one of UCFA’s primary goals since the waters began receding. The ice house was built over 30 years ago, and when it was built it needed community support to get it off the ground. Although all the electronics and machinery was trashed after the storm, the building was built like a fortress, and it could be restored with new, more modern, and more efficient equipment. Dawn Nunez, owner and operator of Amigo Ice, confided that there just was not enough insurance to cover the cost of repairs. I attended over 40 meetings to establish a plan of action to get the adequate funding to get the ice house running once again.
The first direct grant we pursued hit a dead end in the form of the policy forbidding us from fixing personal property with governmental disaster funds. This policy turned out to be a falsehood, as Mississippi used direct grant funding to help all their docks come back on line, the result of which was a quicker recovery, getting back to business sooner, and generating goods and services sooner. In turn, more taxes could be generated as well. Somehow, some of our officials ignored this equation and, through a panel of out-of-state so called experts, supported projects funded by resources secured on behalf of the commercial fishing industry, but not in the best interest of the industry.
The grant that UCFA proposed to the Louisiana Recovery Authority’s (LRA) Business Reconstruction Grant Program would have rebuilt the ice house, hired Dawn to run it for five years, and supplied ice to the community at a discounted price. We were ignored by the politicians. Keep in mind that the total cost of this would have come to only about one-third of what St. Bernard Parish was entitled to under the damage assessments.
Infuriated by all the lies and crawfishing, Brad Robin, AJ Fabre, Clint Guidry, and I went on a campaign to embarrass the LRA into keeping its promise. Miraculously, some funding appeared and a second round established some funding to start the project all over again, thus resulting in a two-year delay. Guess what happened after that – meetings, more and more meetings. Meetings about the meetings for the meetings. Every hurdle they throw at us, we jumped over. We were making slow progress when B.P. hit, and all the resources UCFA had left were funneled in that direction.
Right now, I know the property has been purchased, but with the demise of the shrimp industry from B.P. and cumulative storm damage, there is discussion that the community could not support an ice plant of that size. If UCFA secures enough funding, we will investigate into the best course of action to use the remaining funding (should there be any left). This is just another prime example of recovery efforts working in reverse. I always think back and wonder about the fact that if everyone had sent that little 1% of hurricane funding to the association, we could have taken legal recourse to compel the powers that be to do the right thing. The time, energy, and resources that were used up to do a vast amount of potential good on this project that has yet to get off the ground makes us realize that if we are going to remain in business, we need to do a better job.
Portable Ice House
Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on every facet of the commercial fishing industry, and securing a constant and affordable source of ice for out shrimp was a major hurdle. While UCFA was working toward rebuilding the ice house in Yscloskey, we were also working on collaborative efforts to obtain some portable ice-production sites established as soon as possible. The government, working with the private sector, industry representatives, and the media, was able to secure two portable ice units capable of producing large quantities of ice.
Charles Robin, his family, and I were in Washington, D.C. giving away 1,000lbs of Louisiana shrimp in hopes of embarrassing the Senate and ultimately the House into sending some substantial recovery funding to jump start the recovery process for the industry. If you remember, the Senate passed a $1.2 billion bill to really help us get started, but the House slashed it to $153 million for three states, with Louisiana getting about $53 million – only one-tenth of the estimated infrastructure damages. This really makes you want to go out and make plenty money so you can pay more taxes, because you know the government will be there to help you in a crisis. Yeah, right.
Keep in mind that if you end up with a large tax debt from your B.P. settlement lawsuit, anything donated to UCFA would be considered as a taxable expense, or you could donate it to LEAN, a real environmental group working hand in hand with us before, during, and since the B.P. spill. You’ve got to pay it anyway, so you might as well try to at least direct some of it to where it will do you the most good.
The problem with the portable ice houses was that they were on Paris Road, the only available parish property. As they proclaim in real estate: Location, Location, Location. That spot only served a small portion of the working fishermen, for, as I told Gov. Blanco’s office, I cannot put my 50ft boat on a trailed and belly up to the plant on Paris Road. Do not get me wrong, the portable ice houses were useful and did come in handy, but this was another case of government hearing, but not truly listening. Eventually, through abuse, lack of maintenance, and a flawed repairs process, the cost of running and maintaining the small ice plants became cost prohibitive.
The back-up plan was to get the two small ice makers fixed and transported to Delacroix and Shell Beach. But, what do you think was the major problem with the back-up plan? You guessed it, meetings – more damn meetings. I’m not too happy about it, but it is the system in which we must work. Once again, Councilman Fred Everhardt and I went on the road in an attempt to get this done. We had a few sites picked out with a location and proximity so as to give the harvesting sector a priority. On several of the better locations, there existed a problem with the new owners not wanting to be forced to service anyone on a first come, first served basis. Since Katrina, the ability to serve the need for ice had become a commodity, as in, you sell me your shrimp and I’ll sell you my ice.
Working with Rusty Gaudet and Fred Everhardt, we did find two sites – one in Delacroix and one in Yscloskey. Fred and I worked diligently to get them moved cost efficiently. The plan was to let the owner of the facility own, operate, and maintain the structure for five years, making a small contribution to UCFA for every basket of ice sold in an attempt to establish a source of perpetual funding. We were on the verge of firing them up when B.P. halted those plans, as there was suddenly no apparent need for ice if we could not shrimp. Everything was in limbo, and then Isaac took care of our potential windfall. Both machines were toppled and suffered extensive damages. Once again, paper work and the inability of looking at the full potential of a project caused the problematic thinking of “why it won’t work” instead of the strategic thinking of “what do we have to do to make this work?” Nevertheless, I would like to thank Fred for all his time and efforts.
Words to live by: “How to be stress free. Handle every situation like a dog. If you can’t eat or play with it, just pee on it and walk away.”
Skimmer Shrimpers Win a Temporary Reprieve
The Turtle Excluder Device (TED) has been, and will always be, a hot issue throughout the shrimp industry. It was illegal the way the Feds forced the TEDs on the shrimping industry back then, and forcing them on skimmer boats now – many of whom were former trawlers attempting avoid the TED regulations in the first place – is also illegal. The battle of whether or not we could stop the Feds from forcing the skimmer shrimpers to use TEDs has been brewing for several years. Two factors kept them off our backs: (1) Turtle populations are soaring while the number of commercial shrimpers and their time spent out at sea has been on a steady decline, and (2) It would have been a public relations nightmare for the government and the turtle people to attack the shrimp industry again while 80% of us were still trying to recover from a series of monster hurricanes. For while the status quo seemed to be acceptable with the industry receiving TED exemptions after the storm with no apparent damage to the turtles.
B.P. hits to all wildlife, both commercial and non-commercial, were perilous; oil is an indiscriminate killer. In this area, all the impacted parties banned together to fight the corporate monster that created the disaster. A very young volunteer worker from the Sierra Club sought me out and compelled me to speak at the first rally in Lafayette Square. I asked him if he knew who I was, given all the misinformation the Sierra Club has put out over the last four decades. I then realized the whole TED issue was older than this young man who had called me. I decided to forego our old battles to band together to conquer an irresponsible corporate giant. The rally and others like it – with various staunch environmental groups standing right beside the commercial fishermen they had previously accused of being murderers – temporarily lulled me into thinking there could be some hope for a mutual coexistence.
That idea was short lived. Even though there was mounting evidence that the oil was killing the turtles (and everything else), some of the turtle groups, after receiving funding from B.P., started blaming the increased turtle strandings on the shrimping industry once again. The theory that the shrimpers caused the increase was flawed at the outset. NOAA’s own inspection logs showed only a minimal amount of effort. Only a blind man given funds for their cause could have come up with the assumption that the nearly non-existent fishing effort during the worst oil spill event on record would cause and increase the turtle strandings caused by interaction with shrimp trawls.
B.P. knew they were in trouble, so they killed two birds with one drop of oil, so to speak. After the donations came in, the turtle people switched to playing the blame game with the shrimpers. With all eyes on the fight between the environmentalists and the fishermen, the heat was off B.P. Another good public relations campaign for them.
The turtle groups sent a letter of intent to sue NOAA, which sparked the call to arms once again. All of a sudden, even with turtle populations at an all-time high and fishing effort at an all-time low, it was time to force TEDs in skimmers. LSA and UCFA were ready for this challenge, and our only hope was that the skimmer shrimpers would show up in force when need be at the local workshops setup to tell the shrimpers not if they were going to be using them, but when.
We had a different plan. Senators Landrieu and Vitter backed us up, along with the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries. We had enough proof to stall them and at least make them perform naked-TED studies on our skimmer boats in areas where we work. One ally we had this time who was absent in the past was the help of the (Small Business Association (SBA) Advocacy Group. Caitlin Cain weighed in on an economic argument from an arm of their own, which was tossed to the wayside during the original TED debates. Bottom line, how can these small boat operations lose anymore than they are losing already and still make their SBA obligations?
Clint and I attended every meeting we could, some of which had ample attendance, but most of which were attended by only a handful of fishermen. I was really disappointed by the lack of representation from the skimmer fishermen form the east side of the river. Most of the shrimpers from Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and New Orleans East use skimmers, but only a fraction of them showed up to fight for themselves. This time, what we did collectively must have been enough for NOAA to decide to leave us alone for another time. Consequently, for now until further notice, the TEDs will not be required on skimmer or butterfly nets. However, if the compliance of the tow times (checking your tail every 55 minutes in spring and 75 minutes in cold months) is enforced, the skimmers could be faced with the same problem. Once again, thank you for those of you who CHOSE to participate in saving their own livelihoods and let this be an example. Do not let this small, temporary victory lull you into any false sense of security. These are people who do not want the shrimpers even on the water to disturb the poor turtles, the same people who eat seafood an average of 2.5 times a week.
The following are some letters involving the issue mentioned above.
From the Cloud of Victory and Uncertainty, GO FISH is formed
As is the case in every disaster, pools of individuals with common concerns and goals tend to gravitate together. The BP Oil Spill and it’s devastation on the coastal communities became the common glue the coming together of several commercial fishing groups, environmental groups, and community action groups. After the huge success of getting BP not to deduct VOO payments from and future settlements, we decided to form what later became “GO FISH” Gulf Organized Fisheries in Solidarity and Hope. Luckily we were able to secure outside funding to establish the coalition and address the most current concerns of the partner members.
The aftermath of the BP Spill and all it’s consequences, present and future, were paramount in deciding a course of action.
We decided to utilize the funding to hold a seafood conference to address and to educate the fisherman and the environmental community as to what we were able to learn about the spill, the lawsuit, the settlement, the compensation programs, and most of all – the unstable future of our fisheries.
To be part of GO FISH you must be a member group. Once again the emphasis here is to get involved on some level and stay involved.
GO FISH filed objections to the settlement process and all it’s shortfalls and inequities. U. C. F. A. as an associate group member supported the objections with the intent to compel the judge to move the oyster lease holder claim to the property damage side of the uncapped portion of the settlement; thereby leaving more funds in the capped side of the settlement. If we could achieve this there would be a considerably more funds in the seafood compensation program to possibly, adequately settle with the seafood industry, before most of us either settle on an inadequate figure, opt-out, or take a chance of going out of business.
After the smoke cleared, the GO FISH objections addressed the issue of the oyster lease holders claims receiving a disproportionate share of the seafood program capped amount. Misinformation arose accusing George of saying the oyster leaseholders got too much money. George is a leaseholder himself, why would he make a statement like that?
This is just another example of how confusing things get when an association has the responsibility of representing many different facets of the same industry. We knew the leaseholder $ per acre damage compensation formula was giving no where it was set in stone. We simply were trying to get more funds into the seafood program so maybe some of those on the verge of bankruptcy already could take a settlement. We compiled a report for the GO FISH Conference which will be available. Once again we want to thank all those involved with GO FISH getting up and running and hope to utilize these alliances in the future as we face the NRDA rebuilding process and the fresh water diversion issue.
GoFish Seafood Conference Speech: by George Barisich
I am representing a very large area from the mouth of the Mississippi River up to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and east to the Mississippi state line. Our primary fisheries are shrimp, oysters, crabs, and fish. This area did produce about 40% of shrimp, 65% of oysters, 35% of crabs, and 45% of fin-fish for the state. Today, I am asked to give you an overview of what I see as the impact of the spill on our world.
Shrimp production during the spill in the affected areas was sporadic at best with openings and closings crippling the shrimpers who were still trying to produce. I was the last boat out shrimping and the first one back after the closure came to an end. While I did well in some areas, there were historically productive areas with almost no sign of life and still, as of last week, reduced production. Keep in mind that only about 8% of the fleet was shrimping, so, theoretically, we should have been Forrest Gump-ing it out there.
Production is not the only factor to be considered. Two weeks after the spill, I got $1.95 for 40/50s, the highest price I got in eight years. One month later, I got $0.95 per pound. Today, it Is only $1.25. Some recovery, but not enough, and with no promise of price hikes in the near future.
To overview, production is both sporadic and localized, with a slower growth rate for these species that have spawned, and with only a prayer for better prices.
Oysters have faired out far worse, especially for those farmers in the highly-impacted areas. Louisiana state seed ground is at about only 6% of production of marketable oysters from the state reefs. Some of our private oyster farms faired out a little better in that the adult oysters survived. However, as of last week, the spat catch – that is, the presence of baby oysters – is, at best, 3% of where it should be. The fear is that as e harvest these adult oysters or they die off, until we get a repeat spat catch, we are in jeopardy of losing production in some areas altogether.
To give you an example of how devastating it is, I usually average 4-6 thousand sacks a year, but I have only sold about 600 sacks since the spill, and still without any sign of a spat catch on my reefs. So, you can understand what I am still trying to figure out is how the PSC came up with only a 35% loss of value.
Crabs followed shrimp pretty closely. Certain areas had good production for short periods while other normally productive areas had limited production. Prices, until recently, have been lower than average. Another factor which came into play was the severe increase in crab mortalities of trapped crabs even in the winter time, which is clearly a sign of stress. Another factor, that is now coming into play is the over-capitalization occurring in the crab fishery. Many fishermen who got a settlement check or VoO money used some of the funds to buy crab traps or equipment so as to avoid giving it to Uncle Sam. Now, many former oyster fishermen are crabbers, further slicing that pie and using more crab traps for more production. The continuance of this practice will collapse the fishery eventually.
As for the fin-fish, reports show the same trend in production in the same areas with production in historically productive areas being minimal. The fear for this species is that the effects will some a bio-mass loss. Let’s hope we’re wrong.
Shrimper Strikes at Capital = Positive Results
Shrimpers across the Gulf were experiencing record low prices coupled with record high fuel prices. Out of frustration, in hope to draw attention to the problem shrimpers (initiated in Venice) demanded to be heard. Bill Nungesser, Plaquemines Parish President and Acy Cooper along with the shrimpers from Venice called for a state wide strike with a protest at the capital in Baton Rouge. The low price problem affects all the shrimpers, so getting a crowd should not have been a problem, since the price is so low that the profit margin was so low it usually did not pay to go out.
Acy called and asked if U.C.F.A. would participate. U.C.F.A. always lends a hand whenever possible. The number of shrimpers from the east side of the river that belong to U.C.F.A. or a bona fide organization is minimal. But I reached out to as many contacts as I could.
The turnout was great, the political support was strong and we had good media coverage. The result: not much changed.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again. We held another rally, about the same number of people showed up. But this time it was different people from different locations. The word was beginning to spread. Those boys in Louisiana were not going down without a fight. I saw people I had had not seen since the TED fights. Even though we had a good crowd, it should have been more, a lot more. It felt good to stand with a crowd of fisher people willing to sacrifice today for a hope of a better tomorrow.
It was cool when I got on the podium and we all chanted as if we were marching going to war to this chant.
Ain’t no use in going out
The price of shrimp is too damn low.
By the time I pay for ice and fuel
There’s nothing left for me and you.
If Obama don’t do something great
Up goes the unemployment rate.
If Governor Jindal don’t set things straight
South Louisiana’s gonna be a welfare state.
If Americans have to wait
There will be Chinese shrimp on their plate.
All our good chefs won’t know what to do
They’ll have to buy their shrimp from Saigon too.
You better do something really quick
Our country’s getting mighty sick.
NMFS don’t give a damn
Cause they got a real job with Uncle Sam.
It’s clear they don’t have a clue
Listen close, we’ll tell you what to do.
Take them shrimp raised in the ponds
Ship them all back to Saigon.
The sad part is, it was such a positive event, but apparently not media worthy because we got minimal coverage. I am working on documenting some of our accomplishments. If anyone has any video or still photos of the rallies, please call George at 504-439-2013.
The positive Result came about 11/2 years later. The prices right before and at the beginning of the spill were the highest in years. In July of 2010 the price plummeted to below pre-spill prices with many docks not even buying shrimp for a while.
Thanks again to all those who traveled miles and hours to stand by their brothers to make a stand.
United Commercial Fisherman’s Association
Summary of Events and Reactions Involving the Shrimp Strike
Monday, Aug. 17, 09 – Plaquemines Parish fishermen and shrimp docks meet, decide to go on strike and protest Tuesday at Capital in Baton Rouge.
Tuesday, Aug. 18, 09 – United Commercial Fisherman’s Association(UCFA) and Louisiana Shrimp Association(LSA) support Plaquemines Parish Fishermen and docks with state- wide strike. 600 shrimp industry supporters attend protest at Baton Rouge.
U.S. Congressman Charlie Melancon attends rally and commits to ask congress to investigate pricing structure in the shrimp industry.
Thursday, Aug. 20 09 – UCFA and LSA representatives meet with LA Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Barham, Asst. Sec. Randy Pausina and Dept. Staff to discuss issues leading to strike and solutions and actions that could be taken.
Gov. Bobby Jindal sends letter to U.S. Dept. of Commerce and U.S. International Trade Commission requesting investigation of possible violations of trade practices by foreign countries.
300 Fishermen attend protest in Lafitte, LA at shrimp processing plant( Lafitte Frozen Foods) to protest low shrimp prices.
Friday, Aug. 21, 09 – 300 to 400 fishermen attend protest in Dulac, LA and Westwego, LA at shrimp processing plants, protesting low shrimp prices and re-boxing of imported shrimp into domestic labeled packaging.
Monday, Aug. 24, 09 – 300 to 400 fishermen attend protests in Delcambre, LA at shrimp processing plants, protesting low shrimp prices and re-boxing.
Wednesday, Aug. 26, 09 – 600 fishermen and industry people protest at State Capitol in Baton Rouge.
Thrusday, Aug. 27, 09 – Representatives from UCFA, LSA, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, State Rep. Ernest Wooton, Mayor Tim Kerner and Plaquemines Parish fishermen met with Gov. Bobby Jindal to discuss issues of Shrimp Strike and solutions to these issues. The Governor committed to:
– Ask the Attorney General to investigate allegations of price fixing in the shrimp industry and investigate allegations of re-boxing of imported shrimp into domestic labeled packaging.
– Create a Shrimp Task Force organized by Pres. Nungesser.
– Look into placing the Shrimp Industry under the LA Dept. of Agriculture.
– Look into mandating State Agencies and entities to purchase LA domestic shrimp and seafood.
Friday, Aug. 28, 09 – Representatives of UCFA, LSA, Parish Pres. Billy Nungesser, Rep. Ernest Wooton, Mayor Tim Kerner (Lafitte), Mayor Carmadelle (Grand Isle), and Plaquemines Parish fishermen meet with LA Attorney General’s Office to discuss the issues of price fixing and re-boxing. The Attorney General’s representatives agreed to work with us and assigned an investigator and attorneys to the task.
Saturday, Aug. 29, 09 – Plaquemines Parish fishermen and docks meet and decide to end strike and give some time for above actions to materialize and see if they work.
U.C.F.A. Loses a Few Good People
One of the most difficult parts of putting together this newsletter is when I have to report on the passing of fellow members. Unfortunately, several members have passed away since our last newsletter.
Sheron became a dear friend getting involved way back in 2000 before Louisiana Shrimp Association was re-established. Sheron was the better half of A.J. and Sheron having her hands full with simply trying to contain A.J. at times. Sheron and I worked on legislation, grants and fundraisers together always with the interest of what was best for the industry. I had the privilege of attending a small birthday party for her before she passed. She had the grace to forgive me for getting her involved and all the extra work it caused her. She was a fine and noble lady we will miss her dearly.
Terry Pizanni was a lifelong shrimper from Grand Isle. I met Terry at one of the first meetings they asked me to conduct on Grand Isle. The room was packed that night, but only about 10 people joined that night. Terry was one of them. Although he was indeed fed up with all the battles we had already lost. He did not believe not staying involved was the answer. Terry served alongside me on the L.S.A. Board, and being a little older he was the voice of reason in many debates. I would always look forward to the Dec. Board meeting. Terry would bring me some oranges or satsumas and I would bring him some oysters from my reefs. I was disappointed that when Terry passed myself and several other of his friends were in Amsterdam promoting a documentary about the effects of the B.P. spill. I am grateful for the time I got to spend with him and I hope it is some comfort to Jeanie that you were well liked and respected.
Butch was an old school trawler from the Rigolets area. Butch became and stayed a member several years after U.C.F.A. organized. Butch was from an area where it is hard to get them to join and stay on board any length of time. Butch would always call me and thank me for updates on laws and seasons and especially shrimp season extensions. That was the time of the year we would trawl the same area and would compare catches. We got to know each other a little better when we were on dry dock together. Misery loves miserable company. Rest well ole fellow.
David, a.k.a Tug Boat, just look at him and you see where he got the nickname. Tug joined U.C.F.A. when we entered the Battle to save the gill nets. Much of David’s income at that time depended upon the ability to chase fin fish. The losses from the hurricanes and the B.P. took its toll on Tug. A clear indication of what prolonged stress can do to a young man.
Wayne Melerine Sr.
Wayne very recently passed away from complications with his liver. I have known Wayne, better known as Shaggy, long before U.C.F.A. was even started. Shaggy did some shrimping but mainly he was an oyster farmer (fisherman). He was one of a handful of oystermen who could on occasion twist an oyster open with his bare hands. Wayne joined U.C.F.A. as an oysterman, but also with the knowledge that if he helps the shrimper and crabber stay in business there would be less competition for the oysters. Every year I would ask the members to try and get two friends to join.. He would say, “I gonna ask, but I’m not making any promises they gonna listen.” The idle gossip about who did what concerning the association bothered Wayne. He would often tell me when he had to straighten out a few things. Sleep well my friend.
DUES, DUES, DUES, DUES
Although it has been over 3 years since we have asked for any dues to help finance our projects, we do not expect you to come up with the 3 years of dues and defense fund if you do not have it.
Now if you have it we will gladly accept it to fund the next round of initiatives for your benefit. Please use the form in the newsletter. Fill it out so we can update our files and keep the other copy for your records.
Dues are still only $25.00 dues and $100.00 Defense fund.
The second form is to be used if you are taking advantage of directing some of your tax liability in the form of a contribution to the Defense Fund (a deductible expense). Please include the one half of the form and keep the other for your records. Keep in mind that while some fishermen are settling, some are suing, the payments may be spread over several years. If at the end of any year you still have a tax liability, consider contributing to the Defense Fund for the tax relief or donate it to LEAN for a charitable donation that will come back to you.
2012 Defense Fund __________________________
Make payments to U.C.F.A.
Keep for your records.
2012 Defense Fund ___________________________
Make payments to U.C.F.A.
Send to U.C.F.A.
3413 Don Redden Court
Baton Rouge, LA 70820
Send to U.C.F.A.
3413 Don Redden Court
Baton Rouge, LA 70820
Defense Fund Contribution Form:
Send to U.C.F.A.
3413 Don Redden Court
Baton Rouge, LA ;70820
Keep for your records
Defense Fund Contribution Form
Keep for your records.%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
Letter From Board Member Charles Robin
I know it has been a long time since we have been able to put out a newsletter, trust me we have had bigger problems to deal with. You just gotta know that your backs were being covered.
We are looking down on 20 years that U.C.F.A. has been fighting wars and winning battles for me, you and every other fisherman/woman in the Gulf. All the benefits you got from direct grants, indirect grants, season extensions, area extensions, TED exemptions, TAA funding, polar programs, Seafood Promotion, etc. is over 100 times what you have paid in dues over the years. For some of you it is 1000 times more because you never bothered to pay your fair share. Some of you guys that are settling with BP are going to get a bunch of money all at one time. The Feds are waiting to see how much of your settlement they are going to get their paws on. Right now all you can do, if you owe taxes before Dec. 31, 2012 is to contribute some to U.C.F.A. defense fund and then deduct it from your income. Next year if you get some more you may have time to use the money for your business and keep Uncle Sam out of your pocket. Next year we are going to try an appeal to Obama and crew to make a bi-partisan exemption for taxes the fisherman owe from the damages because of BP. The government failed to prevent it, made serious mistakes in the process of making BP do the right thing, and now is claiming a big part of whatever we might get. That’s Bullshit!!
George is working on something to spread the word, if it happens and we need you to show up at a rally, I don’t want to hear no damn excuses as to why you can’t make it.
The second thing I’m pissed about is the fact that almost none of the skimmer boats from Delacroix, Shell Beach, Hopedale, Chef Pass, Rigolets, Pass Manchac showed up for the TEDs in the skimmers scoping meetings. We knew this was coming, U.C.F.A., L.S.A. with the other shrimping groups, have been preparing for the battle. We must have done good everybody reaching out pulling anybody they could into the fight. We won a small battle, I am worried that they are just re-grouping, so we gotta stay on our toes. There were only about 7 skimmerheads east of the River that bothered to show up at our local meeting. What the hell is the matter with you guys? When George and Clint say they need you there damn it, show up, it’s for your own good! The crazy part is George is fighting not to have to put TEDs in the skimmers for you. George don’t use skimmers, so while he was fighting to help you; you were catching shrimp. You wonder why the man is getting Fed up! Some of you guys did real good with the shrimp at the end of the season, so before you give it to Uncle Sam think about joining up or renewing your membership, if you were a member, pay the 3 years of dues and defense fund, or send that money you were going to pay taxes with to the Association as a tax deductible expense.
It’s like this, look at the big picture, for 20 years U.C.F.A. has been putting good money in your pocket. We lost the gill nets but kept a strike net for mullet and drum; how many of you guys joined back then, did real good and then just did not renew? I know it wasn’t the $125.00 a year, you made 100 times more than that. Look at all the shrimp season and oyster season extensions ya’ll got. Hundreds of thousands of extra dollars were made between all of us that came either directly or indirect from U.C.F.A. standing up for you. All you skimmer guys that did good with the shrimp, you oughta think about taking 10% of what you caught and donate it, because I guarantee you woulda lost 20% with the TED’s in the skimmers. It is a matter of DOLLARS AND SENSE. It makes sense for everybody to put up a few dollars to put more Cents in your pocket. We have to build up our resources for the next attack. Fresh Water Diversions are coming full Blast! If they do what they want it won’t matter if you pull skimmers or trawls there won’t be enough to catch anyway.
Hope ya’ll have a good Christmas, and if you happen to run across guys like George, Brad, Clint, Acy, Catfish, walk up to them and tell them Thanks. My Daddy taught me a thank-you goes a long way. It is Christmas, time to think back, count your blessings and understand how some of the good things that happened did not just fall from the sky. At the end of the day, whether we got an association with a proven track record standing up for you – is up to you – each and every last one of you.
Board Member U.C.F.A.
Letter From Board Member Mike Cure
I just finished reading the rough draft of the 2012 U.C.F.A. Newsletter. As always it was full of vital information that you as a seafood producer or processor need to be aware of. It is hard to believe that it is going on 20 years that U.C.F.A. has been standing up protecting your right to chose how to make a living. The sad part is that after 20 years instead of giving George a gold watch for 20 years of service and a retirement party, he gets an I.O.U. for a job well done and a plea to stay on the battle front. George and I have been friends and business associates for over 40 years. That 30 grand we owe him just for meeting attendance since Katrina is a drop in the bucket of what he really lost. Clint and George choosing to advocate instead of VOO cost both of them dearly, but no body suspected we would get the VOO money plus the settlement money. I am going to say it again and I hope it is not the last time, a Big thank you for those who have paid their dues, made contributions, and participated in U.C.F.A.’s campaigns.
Knowing George, he does not want to leave the industry hanging if certain factors arise that may cause him to step down. We have been looking at a gutted piece of property in St. Bernard where we could re-establish the U.C.F.A. office. George is seeking out grants or other potential funding sources to acquire and refurbish the property. It may very well end up being purchased then possibly repaired by volunteers from the Association in the off season.
The BP spill has left a Big cloud of uncertainty over every portion of our industry. To be able to predict the possible future is what makes for success in the fishing industry. But when you have so many factors out of your control – i.e. – waiting for the effects of the oil and dispersed oil, it is an even tougher business to be in. We really want to hire a full-time professional who we can train to understand our issues and what must be done to preserve our way of life. If we get the money, I’m sure we can get the job done before George and other old guys check out.
Looking back on all the projects U.C.F.A. got involved in, many producing significant funding for our industry, I still can’t figure out why we only get a small number of the industry to stay with the team. I hope when you receive this you take the time to really read and understand what all these issues mean to you. If you really see beneath the lines, understand how fragile our situation is and still chose not to get involved, you better get used to eating soup in the soup line.
Look at it like this, commercial fishing is a way of life, but it is also a business and having U.C.F.A. around for the last 20 years has been good for OUR BUSINESSES. Bottom-line, everybody related to our industry benefitted and will continue to benefit if WE can keep it alive and take it to the next level. If you got an issue with anything we have said and done over the last 2 decades give me a call, maybe you want to get on the board and show us how to do it better. Hope everyone has a safe and happy Christmas and New Years and really consider directing the tax money they owe Uncle Sam toward U.C.F.A.’s war chest, you will benefit down the line.
New Associate Business Members
Over the years just as the number of commercial fishermen have dwindled so have the businesses that support us. The negative economic domino effect that is on the back of everybody’s mind in these tough economic times. We will be reaching out to get some of the new docks, plants, and restaurants to join and show their support which in turn will be visited by our members.
Bayou Side Welding
“Doc” owner, operator and worker of Bayou Side Welding and Fabrication recently joined as an associate member. Doc has long standing family ties with the St. Bernard community. It is healthy to see a young man attempting to make it in a support business of a troubled industry. Doc has done a lot of work for me personally and he has already donated time maning the U.C.F.A. booth at several events and meetings. Recently, Doc and I worked preparing oysters and shrimp for the “Save Shell Beach: fundraiser. U.C.F.A. welcome Doc and Bayou SIde Welding and if you are in need please do not hesitate to give him a call.
Paul V. Perez, CFP
Through the Raymond James Financial Services Inc. Paul Perez is joining as an associate Business member to offer his services to assist you in managing your money. Paul and I met after Hurricane Katrina, where we found ourselves working with the St. Bernard Project helping families re-build their homes and lives after the storm. Paul is a family man with an impressive education and work profile in the financial planning industry.
Prior to the spill not many of us thought about using a financial planner as we usually just planned to use whatever finances we had left to enjoy life and prepare for old age. While the BP spill overturned our lives and put us on hold, some of us are now faced with deciding on what is best to do with the settlement we got from BP.
There are many aspects about the investment world that many of us never considered before as we never had access of that much to invest at one time.
That is where Paul came in: give him a call, the consultation is free, let Paul show you what he has to offer.
111 Veterans Blvd.
Metairie, LA 70005
Brandon Bouchereau, Champion Wealth Strategies
Brandon is an industrious young man I met after Katrina while living in Baton Rouge. Brandon’s specialty is in mutual funds, however, his group has numerous programs and services addressing all your financial needs. If you have any questions give Brandon a call.
Dirty Energy Videos
Many curious wanna-be filmmakers descended upon the Gulf Coast to tell the story of the worst man-made disaster on record. One such man, Bryan Hopkins, came down to tell a story through film. The end result was a 94 minute documentary revolving around the spill, the effects of the spill, how it really affects the local people and economy. The film was in Santa Barbara and Dallas and recently was screened at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. The film will be available 01-22-2013. Bryan is letting U.C.F.A. offer the film for a fund raiser for $20.00
To order, please fill out the form below and mail to: U.C.F.A.
3413 Don Redden Court
Baton Rouge, LA 70820
Dirty Energy Videos __________________ quantity x $20.00 each = Total ___________
Phone #: _____________________________%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
In closing, I hope you take the time to understand what happened over the last few years and what U.C.F.A. was able to accomplish and why we were limited in our abilities to get everything we needed. The Association has survived protecting your rights with funds raised mainly from within the industry (pre-BP spill). The industry and the association is at a cross road. U.C.F.A. will only continue to exist and be successful with your help and involvement. As always, if you have any questions, suggestions, fund raising ideas, or ideas to help our industry, you can call me or anyone on the Board. Hope everyone has a blessed and safe Holiday Season.
On a personal note, I am in need of:
a 12 volt Wood Freeman chain driven auto-pilot
The reservoir for the old Hynautic air-over hydraulic steering system
40ft steel booms
If you have any of these please call George @ 504-439-2013