Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Chauvins

'No way' for BP to make shrimpers whole?
Family used to crises fears it's too much

CHAUVIN, La. -- Kim and David Chauvin are old hands at crisis management.

In 2005, Hurricane Rita swamped their home, which doubles as their family shrimping business, Mariah Jade Seafood. Hurricane Gustav was a direct hit in 2008.
Each time, Kim, David and the kids got to work, fixed what the storms broke and moved on. "You get loans and do what you have to do," Kim Chauvin said.
This disaster is different.

Since the April 20 BP oil spill, the Chauvins spend their days working the phones instead of trawling southeast Louisiana's shrimp-rich water.
Kim Chauvin lobbies state and federal officials for more action, using her pull with the state seafood association to keep up the pressure.

Her husband is constantly in touch with BP, making sure the family's three shrimp boats remain part of BP's Vessels of Opportunity program, which hires privately owned boats to help contain the spill.

"We live on the phone lately," David Chauvin said. "I'm starting to answer the phone, 'Crisis hot line.' "

Every member of the family is involved in the family business. Sons David, 21, and Dustin, 20, work on the family's shrimp boats along with their 14-year-old sister, Mariah.

The Chauvins knew the severity of the spill before most Americans. A few days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers, a BP contractor visited David Chauvin to ask for his help in arranging for a couple of dozen shrimp boats to help fight the growing disaster.

David Chauvin can still remember the contractor's warning: "It's going to be bad."
That turned out to be an understatement.

On a typical summer day, Mariah Jade Seafood brings in 100,000 pounds of shrimp for processing. Recently, that haul has dropped to 13,000 pounds for an entire week.

Kim and David Chauvin were high school sweethearts who married at 18.
David Chauvin, a fifth-generation shrimper, is the hands-on manager at Mariah Jade, working the boats with his children. Kim Chauvin keeps the books and relentlessly lobbies for the company and the Louisiana shrimping industry.

Mariah Jade was poised for a big year, but the Chauvins expect to lose $1.6 million in gross sales in May because of the oil spill. The family has received some compensation from BP, but Kim Chauvin scoffs at the idea the company will make anyone whole, as it has promised.

"I've seen people who gross $3 million get a $75,000 check," she said. "There is no way this oil company can make this community whole."

Kim Chauvin said all they want is to go back to work.

"This was not the fishing community's fault," she said.

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