June 1st, 2010
09:14 AM ET

'Money is killing us,' Gulf fisherman says

By Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Senior Medical Correspondent

The latest health risk in the Gulf of Mexico is an abundance of money, says one Louisiana  fisherman.

“Money,” says Clint Guidry, acting president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, “is killing us.”

BP is paying fishermen up to $3,000 a day to help clean up the oil, according to a contract between BP and one of the fishermen obtained by CNN.

He says the nine fishermen who were brought to the hospital while working for BP are unwilling to talk because they fear losing their jobs. The men suffered symptoms such as shortness of breath, irritated nasal passages, nausea and headaches.

“Working for BP is their livelihood, since they can’t fish anymore,” Guidry said. “BP is putting food on their tables. These gentlemen won’t talk publicly because they’re scared for their well-being and scared for their families.”

Graham MacEwen, spokesperson for the petroleum company, says workers have no reason to fear retaliation if they speak out and should feel free to voice any safety concerns to their supervisors.

Several of the shrimpers contacted by CNN declined to talk on the record.

When the clean-up effort first started, BP required those hired to work in their “Vessels of Opportunity” program to sign confidentiality agreements, according to Jim Klick, an attorney representing two fishermen who became ill while working for BP. But he says the clause was taken out after objections from lawyers.

Even those who didn’t sign a confidentiality agreement are scared of retaliation by BP if they speak out, Klick added

“There’s huge concerns about this,” he said.

It’s not clear exactly what’s made the fishermen sick. Guidry says it’s breathing in vapors from a combination of the oil and Corexit, the dispersant being used to break down the oil, but Tony Hayward, the chief executive officer of BP, has another theory.

“Food poisoning is a very big issue,” Hayward said Sunday. “We have to be very mindful of that.”

Guidry was having a cup of coffee Monday morning at a marina in Lafitte, Louisiana, when he heard Hayward talking on CNN. The marina had a pool table.

“I couldn’t believe it. First, he makes our boys sick, and then he insults good Cajun cooking,” he said. “If he’d been right here, I would have shoved the pool cue down his throat.”

Filed under: Gulf oil spill

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.