SARASOTA — Attorneys warned a group of local fishing guides Monday to be careful in filing claims for lost income from the Gulf oil spill, saying the company responsible is doing everything it can behind the scenes to avoid paying claims.
“BP is not here to help you,” said attorney Andrew Yaffa, referring to British Petroleum, whose Deepwater Horizon oil well has created a giant spill in the Gulf.
“Document everything,” Yaffa told an audience of about 100 gathered in a meeting room at the Mote Marine Lab.
He said that potential claimants should avoid forms posted on BP’s website because they omit necessary information, making it easier for the company to deny payment on the grounds that the paperwork was not complete.
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Yaffa, representing the law firm Grossman, Roth, P.A., also warned the group of potential litigants to guard against inadvertently waiving rights to future payouts or to sue BP when filing claims.
“We don’t know how bad and big this is going to be,” he said of the situation.
Comments and questions from the crowd reflected anger, fear and frustration as the huge spill blackens the Gulf’s rich fishing grounds.
“I don’t know what the answer is, it’s just really scary,” said Capt. Doug Ricciardi, who operates Tearin’ Em Up! charters.
“There are still lots of fish out there to catch, but this is more than fishermen,” he added. “It affects our whole community.”
“This is my livelihood; I’m concerned because this is a huge issue,” he added. “It affects everybody, the people down at the Walmart, too — it’ll affect all of us.”
Asked what he sees on the water every day, Ricciardi replied he hadn’t seen any oil at all locally, noting the area continues to produce “big beautiful fish, nice and clean.”
Richard Pierce, Ph.D., senior scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory, said a Loop Current in the Gulf is keeping oil and oil debris away from our coast, but he cautioned, “That can change.”
“Within 72 hours, this can all change quite a bit,” Pierce said.
If oil does hit here, he outlined some of the weathered forms of debris that might appear: As the oil churns up in the water, it’s possible the area could get “gooey, sticky mousse, probably patchy tar balls,” he said.
However, predictions are difficult to make because scientists don’t really know what’s happening to oil deep under the water’s surface, he said.
He called underwater oil “the big unknown.”
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.