Gulf Oil Spill Still Impacts Vietnamese Fishermen

Though a settlement has been reached with BP, the Vietnamese fishermen on the Gulf have still not received their compensation, and many of their businesses are struggling to survive. One of the main issues has been with translation services provided for the Vietnamese workers. The issue is that very little translation help has been provided to help the fishermen struggle to understand all of the legal issues involved with the settlement.

Hundreds Are Waiting for Compensation

With a lack of legal translation, hundreds of Vietnamese fishermen are still waiting on the money that will allow them to rebuild their businesses or to get started in a new career. The people who wish to receive compensation must fill out a damage claim, and that has been difficult because many of the business owners do not speak English well enough to fill out the paperwork by themselves.

Some people, like Dung Tran, have families to support. Tran has been making only $50 a day with his crabbing business because the oil spill destroyed his 300 crab pots and severely depleted the crab population.

Vietnamese Fishing Community

With over 3,000 Vietnamese fishermen on the Gulf coast in the United States, providing professional translation has been tricky. However, the Southeast Asian Fisherfolk Association – founded in 2011 –  has been helping the Vietnamese fishing community so that they can file their claims and read the paperwork they are sent.

Most of the fishermen want to return to fishing because they find it difficult to obtain other work due to language restrictions. Also, many think that they will be treated differently because of their language barriers. Some of the fishermen supported this by saying that native English-speakers were given preferential treatment and their boats were hired over the Vietnamese boats to help clean up the oil spill, even though everyone went through the same training.

Lack of Education Makes Finding Work Difficult

Besides not being able to speak English proficiently, many of the fishermen say that they do not have the education necessary to work elsewhere. Many of the Vietnamese immigrants were raised to fish, and when they came to the United States, they continued in the business and did not receive a full or continued education. BP proposed a training program for fishermen over the age of 40 and 50, but some have declined.

They say that fishing is all they know and they are not in a time of life where they can simply learn new skills and enter a new career. Many want to continue fishing, but that isn’t always a possibility even if they receive their settlements. As one attorney with several Vietnamese clients said, “They can fix their homes, boats, road, but they can’t fix the water.”

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