In the late hours of April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burst into flames and exploded, killing 11 crew members and uncapping an underwater oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Deepwater disaster ended up becoming the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history — nearly 5 million barrels of oil (210 million gallons) were dumped into the Gulf before engineers were finally able to cap the well 87 days after the explosion.
More than five years later, Mexican fishermen have yet to receive a single cent of compensation for the damage that the oil spill did to their livelihoods. But that could be about to change.
A group of 25,000 fishermen from Mexico recently filed a class-action lawsuit against British Petroleum (BP) – the company that was leasing the rig when it exploded. According to Telesur, the fishermen are,
“…seeking compensatory and punitive damages over alleged negligence and missteps that led to the massive leak.”
According to BP’s website, the company paid out roughly $1.8 billion to fishermen in the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas after the U.S. government demanded compensation.
However, this will be the first time that BP has faced a lawsuit from anyone outside of the U.S. When the spill occurred in 2010, Mexico’s conservative president Felipe Calderon refused to sue BP for the disaster. Just two years later, Mexico’s state-owned oil company Pemex signed a deal with the British oil giant to collaborate on oil exploration.
The spill has had a devastating impact on wildlife in the Gulf — an impact that is still being felt today and will likely be felt for many years to come, say environmentalists.
Oil spills hit fishermen particularly hard, since they rely on the ocean ecosystem to make a living. According to the National Wildlife Federation,
“Oil affects fish and aquatic invertebrates (including oysters and shrimp) through surface exposure, ingestion, absorption and — in the long term — by changing their ecosystem. Eggs and larvae of many species are killed when exposed to oil, lowering the spawning success of the species. If species survive exposure, they can lose their ability to fight off disease. Fin erosion, enlarged livers, increased heart rates and other physical effects can occur in fish.”