SARASOTA — Attorneys are warning local fishing guides to be careful in filing claims for lost income from the Gulf oil spill, saying the company responsible is doing everything it can behind the scenes to avoid paying claims.
"BP is not here to help you," said attorney Andrew Yaffa. "Document everything."
Yaffa warned the guides who gathered at the the Mote Marine Lab here that potential claimants should avoid forms posted on BP's website because they omit necessary information, making it easier for the company to deny payment on the grounds that the paperwork was not complete.
Yaffa, representing the law firm Grossman, Roth, P.A., also warned the group to guard against inadvertently waiving rights to future payouts or to sue BP when filing claims.
We dont know how bad and big this is going to be, he said.
Comments and questions from the crowd reflected anger, fear and frustration as the huge spill blackens the Gulfs rich fishing grounds.
I dont know what the answer is, its just really scary, said Capt. Doug Ricciardi, who operates Tearin Em Up! charters.
There are still lots of fish out there to catch, but this is more than fishermen, he added. It affects our whole community.
This is my livelihood; Im concerned because this is a huge issue, he added. It affects everybody, the people down at the Walmart, too -- itll affect all of us.
Asked what he sees on the water everyday, Ricciardi replied he hadnt seen any oil at all locally, noting the area continues to produce big beautiful fish, nice and clean.
Richard Pierce, Ph.D., senior scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory, said a Loop Current in the Gulf is keeping oil and oil debris away from our coast, but he cautioned, That can change.
Within 72 hours, this can all change quite a bit, Pierce said.
If oil does hit here, he outlined some of the weathered forms of debris that might appear: As the oil churns up in the water, its possible the area could get gooey, sticky mousse, probably patchy tar balls, he said.
However, predictions are difficult to make because scientists dont really know whats happening to oil deep under the waters surface, he said.
He called underwater oil the big unknown.