Disaster haunts in 'Black Tide'


We need to remember catastrophes even when they're not in the news or it's an anniversary.

Animal Planet's "Black Tide: Voices From the Gulf" Thursday, July 28, is the perfect jolt to complacency. It's also an update on how residents of the Gulf of Mexico have fared since April 20, 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 men and forever changing the gulf.

Though there are segments on marine life in the very well-done two-hour documentary, as would be expected for this channel, animals are only a part of the debacle. Many people, trying to piece together wrecked lives, are also featured.

Teenagers tell of persistent fevers and coughs. Fishermen lament how meager the haul is. Small cafe owners barely stay in business because like all small businesses, they are dependent upon one another.

Commercial fishing is a $2.4 billion industry in Louisiana; oil and gas production is a $65 billion one. The film allows people to talk and viewers to draw their own conclusions. Though drawing the conclusion that BP officials are telling the truth and that scientists and locals are lying would be impossible.

Al Sunseri and his brother, Sal, co-own P&J Oyster Co., the 135-year-old family business. Before the disaster, P&J employed more than 20 workers. Now it's six, including the brothers; the others are part time.

Like so many people featured in this, Al Sunseri, 53, is resigned and explains how he keeps his equilibrium.

"It is kind of numbing," he says. "I tend to not think about it how was. It's over a year now since we stopped processing oysters. For over a year now the typical hustle and bustle of our business, like it was for the previous 31 years for that I have seen it day in and day out, it has been barren."

He works on a positive attitude but is well aware that alone can't help so many of his neighbors. Since the cleanup what the oysterman wants people to know is: "Seafood from down here is safe to eat."

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