Apalachicola sees some temporary benefits from oil crisis - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Some former shrimpers now work for BP

Apalachicola sees temporary benefit from oil crisis


By LeiLani Golden - bio | email

APALACHICOLA, FL (WALB) –  Oil in Apalachicola's bay would mean disaster for their seafood-driven economy and for their estuaries.

So far, they've been lucky. So lucky they've even seen some benefits oil crisis. But some of those positive impacts might not last.

Oil hasn't reached Apalachicola bay yet, which means the heartbeat of this town, its seafood industry, is still thriving. And people are still visiting.

"We were going to go to Destin for a little while as well, but we just decided to come here because we knew it hadn't been affected much yet," explains Doug Stevens who is visiting from Maryland.

The boost in tourism is unexpected. "They're actually doing well because you have economic
refugees from the coast, Pensacola, Destin," says Tallahassee attorney Tim Howard who owns property on nearby St. George Island. "they're moving this way."

Anita Grove of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce adds, "People who live in places that have been affected, they need a break to get away. And we're a cute little town. They like us."

But what about the people who live in Apalachicola? Whose seafood lifeline is being threatened?

"BP came in with that oil spill there and offered to pay us better money," says Norman Freeman, a former shrimper who now works for BP.

This multi-colored flag designates the boats BP has contracted to search for and report oil. It's just another added benefit of the gulf coast crisis. But ironically, it's also a constant reminder of the potential disaster this small fishing community faces.

"There's been a lot of oil slicks lately," says Freeman. [How far out?] "Inside three miles. They don't want us to go more than three miles for some reason I don't know why. I would think the further off you find it, the quicker, the better."

Fishermen have good reason to stop the oil as quickly as possible.

"They've opened up the winter bars when they shouldn't have. They're letting them catch whatever they can because when the oil comes it's going to kill everything. And it'll be 15-20 years before there's oysters in this bay again. It don't look good," says a concerned Freeman.

Because if oil destroys the seafood, this town's heart will stop beating.

If the seafood industry fails in Apalachicola, so goes tourism, jobs, and property values.

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