Nightly News   |  April 18, 2011

Fishing for answers along the Gulf Coast

Dean Blanchard, a southern Louisiana businessman whose once-thriving shrimp operation is still struggling to survive one year after the BP oil spill, talks with NBC's Brian Williams about the outlook for Gulf fishermen.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back here tonight in venice, louisiana . this entire community is set up and put on the earth to do one thing, this is where people go out in boats, harvest from the sea, and sell it all over the nation, all over the world. they've done it well here for decades until the bp spill. so when you ask how is this region doing, how are they recovering after a year, it helps to talk to a local pro like the man we spoke with today, dean blanchard . he's only done this one thing in his life.

>> until i'm dead i believe every morning when i wake up i'm going to think of bp . the first day i realized that bp wasn't trying to pick up the oil, you know. it was just -- it was a pain in my heart .

>> dean blanchard is a fifth generation shrimper whose accent gives way his french canadian roots. he's owned his business in nearby grand isle since the age of 18 and at one time by his estimation just under 10% of all the shrimp consumed in america passed through his dock. half a million pounds a day, but not anymore. he had to lay off 65 employees last mother's day when the business went away after the bp spill.

>> everything i get for in the morning is gone. i get up in the morning for 28 years, seven days a week i worked, sir. i go to the same place. i get there and walk in circles. i don't know what to do with myself.

>> what percentage of your income has bp made you whole for?

>> they've given me about 30% of what i lost.

>> and do you think you're entitled to 100% of your losses?

>> definitely. will my business ever be the same? i had 100 customers last year, and i can only supply 10. the other 90 will they come back to me, or tell me to go jump in the lake? i don't know.

>> when did you know you couldn't carry this payroll?

>> about a week, week and a half after. we all eat breakfast with people that retired from the oil field , and they told me it didn't look like they were going to stop it.

>> is it still ruined today?

>> it's no better than it was before. they haven't picked up the oil. nobody can show me if they did pick up the oil, where did they put it at?

>> you want people to eat gulf shrimp?

>> i've been eating shrimp. this is not our first oil spill . the oil doesn't bother me. they spilled in the first well they drilled out there and in the second one. it's a constant thing we go through. that's might be where our flavor comes from. what i'm scared about is the dispersants spilled. if you took the last five nobel prize winners whose only job is to mess up dean blanchard life and business, they couldn't have done a finer job than bp .

>> he's fiercely anti- bp and anti- coast guard . he says the best way to clean up the water would have been to ask the men who make their living on the water.

>> these fishermen are the salt of the earth . this is what made america great, is these kind of people, you know. these shrimpers are smart, tough, hard- working people . i asked bp to give me a grew of 50 fishermen and a couple of welding machines and welders and give us a week and we'll pick this oil up for you. they wouldn't do it.

>> what has this done to venice, and what has this done to grand isle ?

>> it's destroyed our way of life , you know. you know, we always had the best seafood in the world, even though the imports were coming in cheaper, we always could say well, we got the best. now this has tainted or industry. some are scared to eat shrimp. you have two choices. shrimp from the gulf with bp oil in the heads or get pacific shrimp that glow in the dark . take your pick.

>> that's the fix consumers are in?

>> that's what you're looking at.

>> you haven't stopped eating shrimp?

>> i'd rather die if i can't eat shrimp. i quit eating for a week, and i decided i'd rather die than not be able to eat shrimp.

>> our conversation with the local edge and dean blanchard . here's what he's angry at. 1,000 square miles of federal waters are still officially shut down to fishing here. up to $515 million in sales, that's a rough probably low ball estimate just in louisiana , and just in louisiana $268 million in lost income for men like him and 11,000 jobs gone away at least for