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August 15, 2007

Bivalve Curious

Louisiana oystermen are making more money off oil company settlements than from actually taking oysters out of the sea, says a new study by two Louisiana State University economists. According to this New York Times story, oystermen can claim damages to the seafloor from the oil industry, whether they’re reaping oysters from it or not – they just have to have a “lease,” often passed down generations, on the underwater space.

It’s hard to imagine any situation where an oil company is the victim, but according to the study, oystermen gross up to $14 million annually from oil company settlements, while the state’s oyster production is valued at just $12 million.

The oystermen interviewed in the Times piece vehemently deny any shakedown of the oil industry. Meanwhile, the reporter seems be harvesting something of his own – a crush. He calls his subjects “brave little oyster boats” and notes that one source is “shirtless and bronzed from days at sea.” I’m guessing he watches Deadliest Catch, too, and will be breathlessly awaiting the new shark hunter show.