Bernie Culbertson was preparing to fish cod when the Exxon Valdez ran aground. With oil in the water, fishing came to a standstill and life for he and other fishermen drastically changed.
"The bottom fell out of the price of fish," he said. Pink salmon that sold for 80 cents per pound fell to 8 cents per pound. Consumers turned to farm fish or tuna out of fear of tainted salmon. His boat caught 2.5 million pound of pinks one season and lost money.
Culbertson turned to other fisheries, traveling as far as California. Fishing 12 months a year, his marriage failed. Friends couldn't repay loans and lost boats or homes. Exxon compensation checks, minus what fishermen earned on spill work, arrived too late for many.
The fisheries today are not the same. "The shrimp are slowly, slowly coming back. The crab aren't back. The herring aren't back. The salmon are back in abundance," he said.
Friday, March 21, 2014
Probably didn't ask for enough seafood marketing money
It's been twenty-five years since the Exxon Valdez disaster. Alaskan fisheries and wildlife have yet to fully recover.