Local Fishermen Say They're Shut Out of Clean-Up

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Non-Gulf boaters working in the Gulf.
CBS

The Gulf Coast region is bracing for another onslaught of oil. It's three miles offshore and high winds and waves are pushing it closer. And once again, some local boat owners say all they can do is watch, reports CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

Captain Craig Bielkiewicz has not had a charter fishing customer for two months, ever since the oil spill put an end to fishing in the waters off Grande Isle. He applied to work for BP three weeks ago. He says he hasn't heard back.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

Yet every day on the water he sees boats from out of state busy protecting his backyard.

One boat on the water is from Bradenton, Fla. near Tampa Bay. Oil is more than 200 miles from that shore. The owner said he didn't know if there was work there because he hadn't been there in a month.

There's another boat, this one from Beaumont, Texas.

Across the Gulf, BP says it's hired 3,200 private vessels, their captains and crew to help protect and clean the Gulf. The program is called Vessels of Opportunity, designed give out-of-work fishermen a job. The boat owner makes anywhere from $1,200 to $3,000 a day depending on boat size, plus $200 for every person onboard.

Yet captains from Louisiana to Alabama complain out of state opportunists are swooping in while local captains sit on the dock waiting for a phone call.

"That's not fair, you know, they haven't been affected by the oil spill," says Brian Cumbie, an Alabama shrimper.

BP says in the chaos of the first few weeks they hired as many boats as they could find.

"We need to get boats, local boats out on local waters and we're trying to take steps to do that," said BP government affairs director Jason French.

It's starting to change. Brian Cumbie got a call from BP Saturday. Craig Beilkiewicz is still waiting.

"They took our livelihood. They should have asked us first," said Beilkiewicz. "We didn't get that opportunity to say yes or no."

BP says they hired some recreational boaters who don't have commercial licenses. They're now trying to identify them and give their jobs to the commercial fishermen who earn their living on the water.