Top brass from the U.S. Coast Guard threw a waterside ceremony near Aquatic Park on Thursday to thank fishermen for their help in the Bay oil spill cleanup, but none showed up to accept accolades from the agency, which has been blamed for bungling the environmental and impending economic disaster.
Local fishermen volunteered their time this week and ferried private contractors and equipment around the Bay to help clean up the 58,000-gallon spill that has threatened their livelihood for years to come.
The Coast Guard asked one of the oil cleanup companies to invite fishermen to the ceremony, spokesman Larry Chambers said. But Ernie Koepf, who has fished the Bay for 35 years, and who spent much of the week ferrying contractors around the Bay in his boat as they mopped up fuel, said he never heard about it.
“It’s another screw-up by the Coast Guard,” Koepf said. “I’m glad that they showed their appreciation in some way. A Coast Guard person called me [Thursday] morning for the correct spelling of my name because they wanted to recognize my service. I thought they probably wanted to send me a letter.”
Port of San Francisco spokeswoman Renée Dunn said she tried to help the Coast Guard find fishermen to attend the ceremony, but none could be found in time.
“They’re out early in the morning fishing,” Dunn said. “By the afternoon, it’s their evening rest time.”
Local crabbers had asked the governor to delay the opening of the entire commercial crab fishery. But the state announced Wednesday that only San Francisco Bay and waters within three miles of the coastline, from San Mateo County to Point Reyes, would be closed. Dungeness crab, a delicacy, is usually caught more than three miles offshore.
At Fisherman’s Wharf, crabbers said they wouldn’t go out until the oil spill is cleaned up and public confidence is restored. Seafood buyers said they’re concerned about potential liability if someone becomes ill from eating oil-tainted crab.
The state said it consulted with all sectors of the fishing industry before deciding which areas should be closed and determined crab outside the closure zones were safe.
The first lawsuit was filed Thursday — by a crab boat operator who is suing the shipping company and others for economic losses.
AP contributed to this report.