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While BP is busy looking for ways to spin research projects into public relations pay dirt (see Alex Woodward’s post “BP emails show possible plot to spin oil disaster's impact” below), Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) officials are “shaking out the couches” at the agency to find money for emergency projects to help the state’s oyster industry recover from the Gulf oil disaster.

During a news conference LDWF and Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) held Friday, April 15, with leaders from the oyster industry, the agencies announced an additional $2 million in funding for an emergency restoration project to prepare oyster seed beds in the absence of money BP promised to repair damage caused by the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil hemorrhage. The new funding will be used to plant cultch (shell or other materials containing calcium carbonate that attracts shellfish larvae) in oyster seed beds. "While BP is busy spending millions on advertising to prove that they are following through on their promise to make the oyster industry and all of our coastal fisheries whole, they have neglected to follow through on numerous projects that could have helped our oyster men and women get back to work," LDWF Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina told oyster fishers at the conference. "While we still plan to press BP to fund $15 million for improvements to oyster grounds, including additional cultch plants and innovative farming techniques, we have been shaking out the couches at our agency looking for funds to help ensure a healthy spat set.” (Oyster larvae develop into spat, which need to latch onto something like cultch to grow into mature oysters.) Pausina said the additional funding from his department brings to $4 million the amount of money the state has invested in emergency restoration projects for the oyster industry.

The state plans to ask BP to reimburse Louisiana for the $4 million it is spending on oyster bed preparation. “BP is still the responsible party, and it is time they started acting like it," Pausina said.

CPRA chairman Garret Graves told conference attendees that Louisiana’s coastal area provides more than 90 percent of Gulf species, and that the oil disaster has dramatic adverse affects on the state’s the oyster industry.

Representatives of the oyster industry expressed anger and concern that BP has not lived up to its promises to repair damage its oil operation caused along the Gulf Coast.

"I am angry that BP has not followed through with their commitment to reseed the public oyster grounds and that the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has failed to compensate fairly the oystermen that were hurt by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster," said Al Sunseri, owner of P&J Oysters and a member of the Governor's Oyster Advisory Committee.


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