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Fish merchants suffer despite oil clean-up

Fish merchants suffer despite oil clean-up
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Despite some relatively encouraging news that the Gulf oil spill has been contained, businesses along the southern US coast still fear for their livelihoods.

BP says virtually no oil has leaked from the sunken well since a cap was sealed, while Louisiana has reopened large fishing zones.

But in Pensacola, Florida, fishmongers such as Joe Patti’s Seafood are suffering.

The business is one of the best known seafood stores in the country and has been a landmark in Pensacola since 1931. It is now run by Frank Patti, Joe’s son.

There are several stalls inside the warehouse-style building. Although located right on the water, none of Patti’s fish comes from the Gulf. It is flown in from all over the country and the world. Cleaned and put on ice on the counter, the origin of the fish is clearly marked.

Patti has seen a sharp drop in tourism since the disaster struck, and is relying on local regulars to keep going.

“The reason I come here is he guarantees that none of his seafood that he sells in this store will be tainted by the Gulf oil spill at all,” said one customer.

Even if fishing were to restart, there is concern that chemicals used to clean up the spill may be making the pollution worse. Reports say BP has used one dispersant many times, despite requests by the Obama administration to employ it sparingly.

“I want to know that this dispersant that they put in the water to break the particles down… I want to know if it had an affect on the product out there,” said Frank Patti. “I want to be able to tell the customer I know this stuff is good. I can’t do that now.”

The business was looking to break an annual sales record of the equivalent of 12 million euros, but sales are down by 52%. So far Patti has only received 15,000 euros in compensation, although another 135,000 euros is promised.

Euronews correspondent Terry Winn in Pensacola said:
“The docks behind Joe Patti’s are usually bustling with activity. They probably won’t be that way again until the oil is cleaned up and, more importantly, until consumers and retailers regain confidence.”