About 20 months ago, the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers and releasing over 200 million gallons of oil. The biggest offshore oil spill in US history, it seriously damaged ecosystems and caused health problems from chemical dispersants. The responsible thing for a company to do would be to own up to the oil spill, and continue to express regret for the damages caused by it. Not BP, the company that bills itself as “beyond petroleum.” Right before Christmas, BP launched an advertising campaign that touts the Gulf as the place to travel to.
One of the ads launched by BP aims to boost tourism by appealing to Americans to “help make 2012 an even better year for tourism.” Tourism has lagged since the oil spill, so the ad must be welcomed by Gulf residents. Not really. The head of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, called the ad, “BP propaganda.”
Aaron Viles of the Gulf Restoration Network said, “They might not blatantly lie in the ad, but the true story is far less shiny, and far more troubling.”
Viles said that the oil spill may have caused shrimp harvests and abnormalities in killifish, a minnow, to increase. “BP needs to put these facts in their ads,” Viles said.
A.C. Cooper, a shrimp fisherman in Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana, said, “They (BP) make it sound like they’re doing a lot, but they’re not doing much to help the fishermen out … I got good fishermen struggling to pay their bills right now.”
“The numbers on our shrimp are way down,” Cooper said.
Cooper added, “They talk about areas being all open. There are areas that are still closed.”
A federal ban on fishing includes one-third of the Gulf, and economic damage from the oil spill is projected to be $15-$60 billion over the next 20 years. Considering that seafood is a $3 billion industry in Louisiana, and produces 30 percent of the domestic seafood in the U.S., having part of the Gulf closed to fishing is a real hardship.
“They should be a little more apologetic and less triumphant,” said George Crozier, an oceanographer and former director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama.
BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said the ad campaign highlights “facts” and not “anecdotes.”
“We’re honoring our commitment here in helping promote the Gulf Coast and Gulf seafood and doing our best to help the region recover,” Mueller said. “As Iris says in the ads, we have more work to do, and BP as a company fully recognizes that there is more work to be done.”
Perception is king, and the criticism leveled at the ad campaign shows that Gulf residents perceive the ads to be propaganda. Since many Gulf fisherman are struggling it seems that the money spent on an advertising blitz would be better spent helping out those fishermen. That might even help restore BP’s tarnished image.
Photo credit: Flickr user, Futureatlas