As work continues offshore to contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, commercial fishermen in Louisiana, under a fishing ban, sit in port waiting to learn their fate. Many have spent their entire lives harvesting the oysters, fish and shrimp that thrive in the Gulf. Their life savings are often tied up in boats and fishing gear. Jeff Swicord introduces us to one third-generation fisherman from Port Sulphur who fears he is about to lose both his livelihood and his heritage.
Fifty-year-old Louis McAnespy bought his first boat when he was 15-years-old.
"I spent close to $40,000 last year bedding oysters," McAnespy said.
Like his father and his grandfather before him, he makes his living harvesting the fish and shellfish of the Louisiana Gulf coast.
"This was the first place we had, my grandfather built it. Then we started, I built my house and my brother built a place here," McAnespy said.
But he fears that could all be coming to an end as the massive oil slick from the Deep Water Horizon drilling rig creeps toward the coast. His thoughts and fears keep him awake at night.
"Three or four hours before I could fall asleep. I wake up three o'clock in the morning with the same stuff on my mind, tossing and turning. I feel like a fish out of water just flapping around in my bed at night" McAnespy said.
Louis's brother Henry McAnespy showed us a map of the oyster beds they lease from the state.
When Hurricane Katrina destroyed their oyster grounds, Henry invested $30,000 of his retirement money to re-seed the beds. Now he worries they will lose everything.
"You know, in two years I could recap some of the money. But if this oil gets on there, everything we got invested, we just going to go down." said McAnespy.
The two brothers estimate they have more than $300,000 invested in fishing gear and equipment. They employ 12 people including Louis's son and deck hand Matt.
The McAnespy's have applied to take part in a British Petroleum program to employ fishermen in the oil cleanup. They have been to several meetings but have not been chosen. Louis says BP's response to the spill has been inadequate.
"I was told this morning at BP oil that they was hiring 50 commercial vessels to go off and handle this oil spill. That seems like a lot of oil for 50 boats to handle. I think they need 550 boats, 1,000 boats. Whatever they can get on they should put on," McAnespy said.
"That is what we are trying to save right there, wildlife. It might just be a little fiddler crab, but it is something. Redfish will eat that and feed on it. Sheephead, speckled trout, it is part of the food chain," McAnespy said.
For now the McAnespy's can only wait, their fate adrift with the tide, the wind, the course of the spill.
"There is nothing I would love more than to spend the rest of my life back here. But I don't see it happening. I really don't. Don't see it happening," McAnespy said.