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Answering Adversity

Stacy Swiderski, Team New York
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After the Spill

What had started as a curiosity to explore became an actuality impossible to ignore.

I arrived in Jefferson Parrish, Louisiana just two weeks after the waters had been reopened to recreational fishing. My intent was to explore the ways residents, fisherman, and local businesses had been affected by the recent BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and to learn what people were doing to overcome the resulting challenges. When I entered Grand Isle, a small community of approximately 1500 people at the mouth of Barataria Bay, I was immediately struck by how quiet and still the town was. Yet I was touched by the sense of persistence, eagerness, and willingness that permeated its residents. An island that had once subsisted on tourism, the seafood industry, and the oil industry was now strictly surviving on the business from the oil clean-up industry. I spoke with small business owners, commercial and recreational fisherman, and clean-up workers. Although these people had been humbled, they were not by any means defeated. Fishing here, despite the oil and despite the dispersants, was a way of life. As one fisherman said to me, “The Gulf will take care of itself.”

As I traveled through Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, I confronted a much different experience. There was a heavy uneasiness in the air as the influx of pickup trucks and commercial vehicles zoomed throughout the once bustling fishing town. The community appeared rather divided by the spill. Not many people wanted to talk, let alone to someone with a camera. A faded, wooden sign stating “Fishing Capital of The World” at the Venice Marina had surely seen much better days. It was here that I spent time with Cindy, the night guard at the Marina. I walked the grounds with her listening to her story and photographed her from her guard post as the sun set over the lilied marshes to the west. The town had undergone a drastic physical change from a fishing marina to a working marina, and a morale transformation subsequently followed. She was fighting hard to keep spirits high, and as she spoke to fishermen returning for the night, she turned to me and peacefully said, “I just want my fishermen back.”

© Stacy Swiderski
All images in this article © Stacy Swiderski

© Stacy Swiderski

© Stacy Swiderski