Asian-American Fishermen Sue BP over Racial Discrimination in Oil Spill Cleanup

Saturday, May 05, 2012
Cambodian and Vietnamese Fishermen Meet with BP in 2010 (photo: Sachi Cunningham, Los Angeles Times)
A large group of Asian-American fishermen have sued BP in federal court claiming the oil company discriminated against them when it hired locals to help with the 2010 oil spill.
 
Through BP’s Vessels of Opportunity (VoO) program, about 5,000 boats were used to help contain or mitigate the petroleum fouling the Gulf of Mexico. Out of these 5,000 boats, only 350 belonged to Vietnamese- or Cambodian-Americans. According to figures compiled by David Burrage, a Mississippi State University extension professor of Marine Resources, before the oil spill Asian-Americans held 75% of shrimp licenses in Louisiana for vessels longer than 50 feet.
 
In their lawsuit, the 41 fishermen say the company say BP avoided hiring more Vietnamese and Cambodians because to do so would have required hiring translators. The plaintiffs also say cronyism played a role in giving out VoO contracts that resulted in excluding the minority groups. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser also speculated “BP preferred to hire people who didn’t live here, didn’t have a passion for this area and who wouldn’t let other people know what they’d seen.”
 
Also named in the suitarer the companies that managed the VoO program: DRC Emergency Services, and Danos and Curole Marine Contractors.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
 
To Learn More:
Asian-American Fishermen Sue BP for Racial Discrimination (by Susan Buchanan, Louisiana Weekly)
Asian-American Fishermen Vs.. BP (U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana) (pdf)

“Spillionaires” Profit from BP Oil Spill (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 

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