BP deadline is Jan. 22 for commercial fishermen

A Tuesday deadline looms for commercial fishing professionals to file claims for financial losses from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

A special Seafood Compensation Program created under the BP settlement was approved by a federal administrator, with a Jan. 22 deadline for filing claims.

The $2.3 billion set-aside for the fund covers seafood-related claims by commercial fishing vessel owners, captains and crew.

“If people feel like they have a valid claim, we encourage them to sit down with a professional to do it,” said Bill Kelly, executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association.

While no oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 apparently reached Keys waters, many fishermen retrieved gear from the water when experts said the spill “was predicted to hit the Keys at any moment,” Kelly said. “Guys were out there feverishly getting traps out of the water. They lost harvest and days of work.”

Some fishermen who documented lower catches in 2010 have received settlements, Kelly said.
Commercial bait fishermen also proved their sales plummeted because visiting anglers stayed away from Florida during the threat, he said.

Claims can be filed through professionals or privately. Christina Vaeth, a Key Largo lawyer who works with commercial fishermen, said those seeking claims should be aware that separate claims can be made in different fisheries.

“A captain who owns his own boat may be able to file on behalf of himself and the boat,” Vaeth said.
Filers also should be wary of paying upfront fees, she said.

For information on the commercial fishing program, go to www.deepwaterhorizoneconomicsettlement.com.

Charter fishermen are covered under a separate program.

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