TALAHASSEE, Fla. - The state is seeing a surge in people applying for saltwater fishing licenses since the gulf oil disaster began. BP requires the licenses for anyone entering into its Vessels of Opportunity program. While most of the people filing for the licenses have a legitimate claim, there are reports of recreational fishermen trying to get into the program and take jobs away from out-of-work fishermen.
The more fishermen that illegitimately apply for the program, the longer it will take BP to weed through and sort out those who qualify.
Fishermen, oystermen and shrimpers are fighting to save their coast and their livelihood. BP has enlisted 6,000 of their boats in the war against the oil leak and cutting the boat captains a check to help make up for the lost business due to the company's negligence.
As the case in almost every disaster, there are some people out there trying to cash in on the misfortune of others.
Bob Zales, the president of the National Association of Charterboat Operators says his members sometimes have to compete with recreational fishermen, who make their money inland, but want to rent their boats to BP.
"“These are people who are lawyers, doctors, who have private vessels, that are in my mind are stealing from the fishermen that do this because they are working in a program making money that should be going to a fishermen who is not making money.” Zales adds.
Henry Cabbage with Florida Fish and Wildlife, says those who are not making legitimate claims are being weeded out by BP, “BP will require documentation that you actually lost income from fishing if you are going to file a claim that says you lost income. Just having a saltwater product license is not sufficient documentation.”
It is not just the Vessels of Opportunity Program that outsiders are trying to break into. There are 4,000 clean up jobs available in Florida and the state is keeping a close eye to make sure that the people hired are those that have been affected by the leak.
Visit Florida will soon be out of the advertising money BP gave the state tourism agency to spread the word that most of Florida’s coast is still open for business. Visit Florida received the seven million dollars June 7th, and used the money to air TV, Radio, and Internet ads mainly in Southeast region of the country. CEO Chris Thompson says Visit Florida still plans to promote instate travel, but more money will be needed to continue the out-of-state campaign.
Thompson says, “Some of the instate stuff we are doing will be go beyond that, but as far as the big push which is through television and radio it pretty much ends this weekend.”
Visit Florida is asking Governor Charlie Crist to get more money from BP to continue running ads
©2007 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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