Oil Spill Recovery

By: Deanna Bettineschi Email
By: Deanna Bettineschi Email
All along the gulf coast, fishermen nervously waited for tar balls and oil to reach the beach.


In Panama City, barely any arrived.
However false perceptions, and "what ifs" caused Panama City’s fishermen and boat captains to suffer.

Sigurd Smaby is captain of the Gemini queen in Panama City beach.
It's been his job and his passion for nearly fifteen years.
Typically he takes more than 70 people fishing in the gulf every day.
But when gallons of b-p oil started gushing into those waters two years ago, people stopped boarding the Gemini queen. Instead they went looking for cleaner waters for their fishing trips.
But Smaby didn't give up.

“Matter of fact I was on this boat, we were the only charter boat running.” Captain Sigurd Smaby said.

Although business wasn't booming, Smaby kept running the Gemini queen.
The oil causing so many problems wasn't showing up in Panama City.

“They did off of Destin, but we never saw anything here.” Smaby said.

But not seeing any oil wasn't enough.
Smaby says tourists had different images in their minds.
Oil drenched beaches, and tar ball covered sands.
Those wrong perceptions did more damage to Panama City’s commercial and recreational fishing, then the b-p crisis.

“Everybody freaked out, all over the nation...everyone who usually came down here to fish, were not wanting to fish, it about killed us.” Fisherman Michael Paprocki said.

Being cautious continued to affect the gulf. Officials shut down many federal and state waters, which meant no seafood from those parts.

“When they stopped the commercial fishing it just, that meant they had to get them strictly from New York and Miami stuff like that to get their fish, all frozen of course and knocked out the production of fresh fish. And from what I understand it hurt them for a while.” Smaby said.

But B-P stepped in to help commercial fisherman, by establishing multiple claim centers.
Some received emergency payments because the spill destroyed their livelihoods.
There was also B-P's vessel of opportunity program.
It allowed commercial and charter fishing boats to help out in the gulf coast's recovery, at the same time giving these captains an income.

Then... another wave of relief.

“They came back the immediate year, full board.” Paprocki said.

He's talking about those loyal fisherman, who once worried about the oil, but are now anxious to head back out with Smaby.

Now two years after the disaster...

“We carry 72 fisherman on this one and we run pretty steady, we get pretty good crowds.” Smaby said.

Crowds that could mean smooth sailing for Smaby, and the Gemini queen.

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