BP finally coughs up for lost revenue

by Walter Pierce

Negotiations between BP and the state have given way to a  $2.56 million agreement that will cover losses associated with the sale of recreational fishing licenses and oyster tags. Just a few days before Christmas, one of many negotiations between BP and the state gave way to a  $2.56 million agreement that will cover losses associated with the sale of recreational fishing licenses and oyster tags.

The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries contends that it is due the corporate loot due to the retail lull that followed the April 20 explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig, which claimed 11 lives, polluted the Gulf of Mexico with millions of gallons of crude and essentially halted economic development along Louisiana's shore.

Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham says the agreement is timely because many anglers around the world are still under the impression that Louisiana's waters are toxic and vacant of recreational opportunities. "This marks a critical step on the road to recovery for (the department) and Louisiana's fishing communities," he says. "These funds are especially crucial now, more than ever, as our department continues to fulfill its mission, while also working to help fishing communities rebound from the impact of the BP oil spill."

The negotiations between BP and the department were overseen by the Louisiana Attorney General's Office, Barham adds. The state's argument was one of mathematics: Once the oil catastrophe commenced in early spring and temporary fishing was announced, the department suffered a loss of nearly $1.7 million from a decline in recreational fishing license sales alone.

But that's just the beginning. The department also saw a loss of $450,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which channels money back to the states based on sales and several other factors, and more than $200,000 in revenue from a dip in oyster tag sales.

Historically, June through October is the high season for recreational fishing license sales. Yet, with the oil spill in play, these sales decreased from nearly $7.3 million in 2009 to approximately $5.5 million this year - roughly a 24-percent nosedive.

As for how BP and the state agreed on $2.56 million, BP analyzed revenue from recreational fishing license and oyster tag sales in March and April of 2009 to create a projection that was applied to sales this year, according to an explanation provided by the state. By doing so, the exercise yielded what revenues would have likely been had the BP event never occurred. BP officials then subtracted the actual revenue from the projected amount to determine lost revenue.

Barham says officials with his department continue to work with BP on claims to fund an oyster cultch program and a saltwater hatchery. But no plans are final as of yet. Earlier this year, the department announced previous agreements with BP for a $13 million fisheries impact study, $18 million for seafood safety monitoring and testing and $30 million for seafood safety marketing efforts.