Three years after the 11 million-gallon spill in Prince William Sound blackened 1,500 miles of Alaska coastline, the herring on which he and other Cordova fishermen heavily relied disappeared from the area. Platt and some others stuck around, fishing for salmon and hoping things would improve.
The herring never returned to Cordova. Platt's income plummeted, severely straining his marriage and psyche. He dipped into his sons' college funds to support his family.
"People's lives were ruined," Platt said. "There were damn good fishermen here in the Sound, and they just said, 'Screw it' and left, and tried to make a living elsewhere."
As for Platt, who stayed: "I wasted 20 years of my life," he said.
The herring loss alone has cost the region about $400 million over the past 21 years, according to R.J. Kopchak, a former fisherman who is now developmental director at Cordova's Prince William Sound Science Center.
And here’s the best part:
Exxon says the spill had nothing to do with the herring disappearance. In a statement, Exxon said the herring catches were outstanding for the first three years after the spill, and that scientific studies showed that the subsequent decline was caused in part by ocean factors that led to poor nutrition, and perhaps by disease. Other studies, Exxon said, pointed to competitive interactions between young herring and young salmon, and to predators.
Oh just fuck you, Exxon. I mean, really. What else is there to say?
Look, I’m tired of hearing people say we “need” to drill for oil offshore. No, actually, we don’t. We have alternatives. We've had these alternatives for over 40 years. Meanwhile, the ocean is our source of food, people. Why in God’s name would you want to piss in your refrigerator? Crap in your pantry?
There are people who go out into the ocean and bring that food back to us on land. Other people clean it and process it and other people sell it. It’s, you know, hugely economically important. And it’s now been destroyed because some other people have been telling us for the past 40 years that we “need” that oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
We’ve had 40 years to implement conservation and alternative energy technology -- technology we already have, by the way. But we didn’t. Instead, we decided to destroy a major source of food for this country.