Oil spill claims process may sink 
Gulf Coast shrimp processors

Staff Writer
Donaldsonville Chief

With looming legal deadlines related to the 2010 BP oil spill, dozens of shrimp processors along the Gulf Coast face a difficult dilemma, with either decision having the potential to jeopardize the future of their businesses and the region's seafood industry, according to a leading trade association.

All pending claims for damages related to the oil spill have been consolidated into a class-action settlement, even for those who have not filed a lawsuit against BP. A hearing to consider motions objecting to the fairness of the terms is scheduled for Nov. 8, seven days after the deadline to opt out of the settlement.

The American Shrimp Processors Association, representing companies accounting for 85 percent of the shrimp processed from the Gulf of Mexico, has seen its members struggle as the claims process has dragged on.

"The progress we made in educating BP, then its accounting firm, then the Gulf Coast Claims Facility about our role in the seafood supply chain is not reflected in the class-action settlement terms." said David Veal, ASPA executive director.

The class-action settlement excludes processors from the Seafood Compensation Program, which uses a different formula and series of assumptions to evaluate damages. Processors have instead been grouped with retail stores, restaurants and other non-seafood businesses.

Basing the claims settlement process on the mistaken assumption that seafood processors share similar losses and future risks as retail stores and restaurants, and subsequent delays in reimbursement may threaten the shrimp processing industry more than the actual oil spill.

"The difference in relative compensation between the groups inside the Seafood Compensation Program and those seafood businesses outside the Program is vast and could create industry damage beyond the oil spill itself," Veal said.