Nightly News   |  May 03, 2010

Shrimpers: ‘This is our living’

NBC’s Brian Williams visits the Drury family aboard their shrimp boat, Storm Surge. These days, the Drurys are waiting to see if they'll get hired by BP to help in the cleanup.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Venice, Louisiana): Now we're going to sample some of the anger and the passion that this approaching oil has stirred up. Whether it is fully onshore or not, it's sitting out there in the water , killing marine life right now. Take just the shrimp industry. Shrimp are bottom feeders; that's where the oil and chemical dispersants ultimately end up. This oil spill has stopped the shrimp industry. It could kill it for a good long while. Today I went on board a shrimp boat called Storm Surge , owned by the Drury family, two brothers and a cousin, four generations of shrimpers. It's all they know how to do. These days they're waiting to see if they'll get hired by BP to help clean up these very same waters. They want to work, and at this point they don't know what else they're going to do.

Unidentified Man #1: It's a dire situation, especially if there -- if it would happen -- we got a lot of the east wind and it happens to get on the west side of the river.

WILLIAMS: Can you believe your next job might be going out there to collect oil off the waters that...

Man #1: We'd much rather be shrimping, but that doesn't like it's going to be happening anytime soon. But now it can't happen because the federal -- they closed off waters, you know, the government did it.

Unidentified Man #2: Well, this year right here was going to be our turnaround since Katrina . Because Katrina went in and -- from Katrina to now, this is the best price we've been getting in a long time, and this is what we was hoping for.

WILLIAMS: There's a lot of unknowns here these days. Even if the oil is broken up with chemicals, will the shrimp harvest still be safe?

Man #2: When did they ever test this much chemical? They said it goes to the bottom, the stuff on the bottom dissolves, you know, eats it up. Well, our shrimps on bottom. Is that one of them that's eating it up? So is it bad seafood that we going to be selling now? And Louisiana 's known for their seafood.

WILLIAMS: These men have all signed up to try to work for BP , feeling they have no choice . They want to work.

Man #2: Don't come down here and just hand us a check and give it to us. Let us get out there and work for it. Hey, I worked all my life since I got out of school. Same thing as him. We worked even when we was in school and all, from 12 years old I been working on a boat every summer. I ain't missed a summer yet. Still to the day, we don't miss nothing. All we want to do is get out there and work. This is our boat, let us work these boats. I'm not scared to go work. That man ain't scared to go work. Nobody in this boat hold is scared to work. We all want to work. We don't want that free handout. You know, this ain't no Red Cross right here. Give us the job and let us go work. That's all we asking for right now.

"PEANUT": Every family down here got a -- got a story that look just like ours.

WILLIAMS: The youngest of the Drury shrimping brothers goes by the nickname Peanut . He was about to make his maiden voyage as captain of his new boat when this crisis arrived.

PEANUT: This is our living.

Offscreen Voice: Well, we.... When we get out of school, this is what we...

PEANUT: This is what we always wanted, like a generation. Most people, when they get older they want to be firefighters, they want to be cops, they want to be politicians, they want to be journalists, they want to be athletes. We all wanted to be fishermen, you know. We looked up to our daddies, our grandpas, even the friends down here. We looked up to them like role models . And that's what we want to do because, like, fishing, you go out there, you lay it on the line . It's what they did and that's what we want to do. This is our dream.

WILLIAMS: Just some of our conversation in the wheelhouse today with the Drury brothers and extended family . It's taken them five years to get back in the game after Katrina . Later in our broadcast tonight, we'll report on the effort to save the wildlife here along the Gulf Coast .