Reeling from oil spill, businesses eye Costa Rica

July 16, 2010

 

Dean Blanchard´s shrimping company used to account for about 10 percent of the U.S. shrimp supply. Now, due to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, that number’s down to zero. The Grand Isle, Louisianan-based Dean Blanchard Seafood can no longer operate due to oil mucking up and polluting the places his boats used to trawl. Since the oil spill forced him to shut down operations, Blanchard estimated he´s lost about $50 million.
 
In a few weeks, Blanchard will be boarding a plane headed to Costa Rica. He hopes that´s where he can start rebuilding his shrimping enterprise.
“I like it (in Louisiana),” Blanchard said. “If I can´t live here then I got to find a place. I got no choice.”
 
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has displaced numerous businesses around the gulf. The accident spilled an estimated 150 million gallons of oil in the ocean. Some of those displaced look to relocate in Costa Rica, with the country´s abundance of shorelines and sea life.
 
Barry Chudwick, co-founder of luxury vacation rental company Del Pacifico in Esterillos, on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, said he´s talked to dozens of investors from sportfishers in the southeast United States, who are looking to buy lots or condos in Costa Rica.
 
“There will be long-term damage done to the ecosystem and sportfishing is a major driver in the high-end luxury market,” Chudwick said. “And as we say, ´big fish bring big boats, which bring big bucks.´”
 
Sam Merkin, who co-runs a company that sets up sportfishing trips called Quepos Sailfishing, said he´s noticed an increase in fishermen from affected areas like Mississippi and Louisiana taking the fishing expeditions.
 
The company has received 20 to 25 calls over the last two-and-a-half months from fishermen in areas along the U.S. gulf coast.
 
“We have people that are anglers that probably weren´t planning on coming,” Merkin said.
 
Blanchard, the former shrimp baron, said he´s always wanted to travel down to Costa Rica. The oil spill has given him a monumental excuse to finally make the trip. 
 
“We pretty much done here,” Blanchard said. “It looks like they´ve given us the death penalty.”
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