04/19/2011 11:23 am ET Updated Jun 19, 2011

A Year Later Gulf Residents Ponder Their Oil Damaged Future

The one-year mark of the BP oil disaster finds may Gulf coast residents are still struggling with the impacts and unanswered questions left in the wake of the country’s worst oil spill.

Shrimp boat captain Darla Rooks and her husband Todd are two commercial fishermen devastated from the past year’s events. Darla says she was poisoned by the oil and dispersant mix as it invaded her fishing grounds on a hot night last May. They say they have yet to receive compensation from the $20 billion BP Gulf claims account, and their shrimp catch last year was ruined by the oil.  

“We don’t know if our fishery will ever be the same,” Darla says. “They came and dumped all this oil and dispersants in our water and now say it’s safe. But we see what’s out there, and it’s not normal. But we don’t have a choice. We have to go back out and make a living and pray no one gets sick and the shrimp come back normal.”


Hear more first hand from Gulf Coast communities about the impact of America’s worst oil disaster on their lives. Watch "Stories from the Gulf: Living with the Oil Disaster," a half-hour documentary produced by NRDC with opening narration by Robert Redford, when it premieres on Discovery’s Planet Green Saturday, April 23, at 2:30 p.m. ET.


Charter boat captain Ryan Lambert runs one of the largest fishing and hunting lodges in Louisiana, and he lost over a million dollars last year as his business slowed to a crawl. Yet Ryan says he was paid just a small fraction of his annual income and had to lay off dozens of employees. “BP came in here and lied to us all,” Ryan says. “They said they would make us whole but instead they’ve stalled getting us the money they said they would while spending tens of millions on ad campaigns. It’s one of the biggest cover-ups I’ve ever seen.”

Rosina Philippe is a member of the Atakapa-Ishak tribe in the small native American community of Grand Bayou, LA. Her community of fishermen too have been shaken by this oil disaster, their fishing season ruined last year. As their marshland home slowly disappears beneath the encroaching Gulf, Rosina says they worry they are the last generation of many who will know what is it to live the special life on the bayou. “Our heritage is here in these waters,” she says. “We will not abandon it. But this oil disaster has threatened us in ways we never imagined. We really don’t know whether we will be able to continue to live here and fish much longer.”

As media attention focuses on the anniversary, many Gulf residents worry this will be the last chance for their stories to be heard. People here remember too well what happened after the BP well was capped last July after spewing roughly 170 million gallons of Louisiana crude into the water. Their stories from the Gulf are powerful.

These are tough people whose livelihoods were pulled from under them. The oil and gas industry is no doubt counting on the nation’s attention to move on while it resists reforms to make offshore drilling safer.

But we must not forget the people of the Gulf who continue to suffer through this disaster. Watch these Stories from the Gulf and then demand action.