Louisiana Shrimper Breathes Dispersant, Gets Sick, and Goes Back to Work for BP

Fourth-generation Louisiana shrimper Doug Blanchard went to work for BP driving his “vessel of opportunity” through oil and dispersant — until he went to the hospital with dizziness, nausea, and other symptoms. So why is Blanchard hoping to get back in it as soon as his doctor lets him?

Louisiana shrimper Doug Blanchard


Douglas Blanchard is captain of the “Big Tattoo.” He’s a fourth-generation shrimper who learned the trade from his father (who died of cancer this year). It’s all he’d ever done before BP’s Deep Horizon well started spewing crude into the Gulf waters where he made his livelihood. Now he’s paid by BP to scout for oil slicks drive through it, and help call in other boats to skim it with booms.

But after driving through oil seemingly treated with dispersant, he got sick. When we talked to Blanchard, he was eagerly awaiting a doctor to clear him to go back to work… in the oil and dispersant fumes.

When he was first taken to the hospital, several major news
outlets called for an interview. When Blanchard’s wife
told them that he was feeling better and not upset–and that BP was
taking care of their bills–nobody called them back. Blanchard was reluctant to talk, anyway, not for fear of retribution from BP (they’d never asked him to sign a nondisclosure agreement or told him not to talk to the media, he says)–he just didn’t want to badmouth the oil company. His goal amid everything going on in the Gulf since April 20 was one we heard frequently: He just wanted to work. There’s a pride in being one of the ones helping fix the situation, he said.

His concern is that a media outlet will “chop up his words to tell the story that they wanted to tell,” he said. So we agreed to minimal edits in this video. We agreed to avoid chopping up questions and answers and we left the questions audible for the sake of context.

Since this interview, Blanchard’s doctor has given him the all clear. BP now has a doctor check him every
time his boat comes in, mainly his blood pressure. (So far so good.) As you watch this, it’s likely Blanchard is steering the “Big Tattoo” through a greasy patch of oil.

Interview by Ryan Marshall, Video by Mike Marshall/Category 5 Films


More coverage of the Gulf Oil Spill

Got information on the spill you want to share? Email us at
It’ll go directly to the lead reporter and editor on these stories, and
they’ll assume all initial communication to be strictly confidential.