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Louisiana Fishermen Return to Check for Oil Spill's Progress

Fishermen open crab traps off coast of Louisiana threatened by the huge oil slick
Fishermen open crab traps off coast of Louisiana threatened by the huge oil slick

The U.S. Coast Guard has confirmed the first deposits of oil from the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico have hit the shores of the southern state of Louisiana. The oil spill has local fishermen worried about possible contamination of their fishing grounds. One crew that that is worried has just returned to the water for the first time since the massive oil leak started two weeks ago.

Delacroix is the last stop in Louisiana's St. Bernard parish before the Gulf of Mexico begins.

For 30 years, Warren Guidroz has been fishing for crab out of this town, nicknamed the end of the world. He hopes the growing oil leak in the gulf is not the end of his business. "It was a good year so far. Our best time was coming, it was really just starting. Now I don't know what is going to happen. Hopefully it doesn't put us out of business, because this is what we like to do," he said.

Guidroz is fueling his boat to return to the sea for the first time in two weeks. He has heard rumors about how close the oil is to shore. But he needs to see for himself if his crab traps are okay. "I hope they are how I left them. Because if they have oil in them, they are going to stay there. I'm not going to fool with that. We can't keep any crab. They shut us down. We have to dump them back in the water," he said.

Wildlife officials have suspended fishing here in Black Bay and other areas affected by the oil leak. The oil sheen may threaten the entire fishing season for hundreds of people in the gulf.

The first trap shows no signs of oil, only mud stirred up by recent storms. Normally, Guidroz would throw the traps back in, to catch more crab. Because of the spill, he feels safer taking them home.

He says no one seems sure of how bad the situation is, or what will happen down the road. "We went to the hazmat [hazardous material] safety classes, and you have one guy telling you if there's oil you don't want to be in it. And there is a wildlife agent telling us 'go pick up your traps, I don't care what they have on them.' You just don't know what to do," he said.

Normally these crabs would earn about $500, but the fishing ban means they can't be sold. Guidroz's son Warren Junior also is a fisherman. He saw the damage that Hurricane Katrina caused to the bayou in 2005. He worries the oil spill could do something far worse. "If the oil doesn't make it here, they say it'll be good for us. But if it gets in here, there ain't no telling because nobody went through this before," he said.

For now, the Guidroz will put fishing on hold while the oil cleanup continues.

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