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26 Nov 2011

Nina Kahori Fallenbaum, Hyphen Magazine

After BP Oil Spill, Future Uncertain for Vietnamese Fishers [USA]

When the BP oil spill started gushing into fishing waters, it hammered an industry that had been struggling for years...Vietnamese Americans had been picking up the slack in a backbreaking industry few Americans wanted to do, but these economics have made it even harder for them to make a living...A group of pro bono lawyers and community activists are now advocating for Asian American fishing families who’ve suffered significant loss of subsistence use...For families whose income came in both dollars and fish, it’s difficult to quantify the losses from the spill...They hope to convince Kenneth Feinberg, claims administrator for BP’s compensation fund, that not all losses can be shown in ledger books...There are laws designed to protect victims of large-scale environmental disasters...but their parameters are hard enough for native English speakers to understand, let alone those that struggle with written English...While over 16,000 subsistence use claims have been submitted to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, just two Vietnamese families have been paid so far, at less than $5,000 each.