Alabama's 'Spillionaires'

Daily Mail on Sunday:

It was the home town of Forrest Gump’s shrimp-loving friend Bubba Blue in the famous movie.

But since the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Bayou La Batre in Alabama has become home to a new breed of men known as the ‘Spillionaires’.

They are the shrimp boat owners who have prospered hugely from the millions of pounds handed out by BP.

While many British pensioners have seen the value of their pension funds fall because of the extraordinary decline of one of Britain’s biggest companies, boat owners in the coastal hamlet have struck it rich.

By allowing their vessels to be used in the massive containment and clean-up operation, some have been paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for just three months’ work.

And deckhands - who would normally earn up to £60 a day working on shrimping or oyster boats - have been taking home triple that.

So much money has poured into Bayou La Batre that police and town officials now fear for its future.


Before the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April, the shrimping business in Bayou La Batre was in sharp decline.

The average salary for its 2,300 residents, a third of whom are Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants, was just over £15,000 a year - and the average house price just £28,000.

Boarded-up shop fronts and empty homes tell the story of how the hamlet, which calls itself the seafood capital of Alabama, was suffering in the economic downturn.

Bayou La Batre had previously achieved fame in the 1994 film Forrest Gump as Tom Hanks’ character launched his shrimping business there.

Not to worry. I am reminded of the story of the shrimper who won the top prize in the lottery and was asked what he was going to do with all that money.

He said, "I'm going to keep on shrimping until it is all gone."


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