Making Oil And Water Mix

Josh Harkinson examines the connection between fishing and oil in Louisiana:

The two industries have developed a comfortable, sometimes symbiotic coexistence. Pearce says the best fishing is often around the artificial reefs created by new and abandoned rigs. And when fish prices are low or the catch is down, people flock to the rigs for temporary work; when oil prices dip, they go fishing. Shell Oil is a longtime sponsor of the annual Shrimp & Petroleum Festival in Morgan City, whose website says it will prove "that oil and water really do mix." Fishermen praise Shell for its largesse following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when it gave them close to $1 million in direct grants and funding for critical infrastructure. "That was the first actual money fishermen got in their hands following Katrina--before the state or federal government," Smith says. "They literally put one of our fishing communities back on the map overnight."

"There is a back and forth relationship there," Pearce says. Yet the seafood industry is dwarfed by the oil industry, which pumps a $65 billion into the state economy annually and directly supports around 60,000 jobs.