The Gulf Disaster, Five Years Later

Gone Fishing

Come to the best sportfishing resort in the bayou (if only the trout would start biting again).

Sarah Craig Photo: Sarah Craig

In 2010, NRDC partnered with StoryCorps and Bridge the Gulf to tell stories of people living through the Deepwater Horizon disaster. As the five-year mark approaches, onEarth revisited Gulf residents for an update. Last of four parts.

Since it opened in 1980, Ryan Lambert’s resort, Cajun Fishing Adventures, in Buras, Louisiana, has lured sportfishermen from all over the country to come and chase the redfish and speckled trout that spawn in lush marshes nearby. After Hurricane Katrina flooded Lambert’s lodge in 2005, he rebuilt it. When the BP oil disaster struck five years later, he says, “it was like a dagger in the heart.”

Oil and dispersants then flooded the spawning grounds. “I would see grown men, guides that are tough as nails, cry,” Lambert recalls. “They were losing their habitat and livelihood.”

Lambert is again rebuilding his business, but he’s less optimistic about its future. He says 2014 was the worst year in memory for catching speckled trout, one of the Gulf’s most popular sportfish. Lambert isn’t sure what’s causing the trout’s disappearance, but he can’t help thinking about what happened to Alaska’s herring fishery after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill—it collapsed.

The rapid loss of marshland is also troubling Lambert. Over the last 80 years, 2,000 square miles of Louisiana coastline have washed into the Gulf, thanks in part to levees, canals, and oil wells. In the next 50 years, another 1,750 square miles of coast could sink into the sea. When the marshes are gone, Lambert says, life in the Gulf (and fishing) will never be the same. Listen to his story below.

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Rob Weir