Loss of BASS tourneys raises concerns about over-litigation in Louisiana

via Louisiana Record

The relocation of major bass fishing tournaments has heightened concerns that the proliferation of environmental lawsuits has altered the economy and culture of southern Louisiana.

The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS), the organization that runs the tournaments, said its decision to no longer hold tournaments in Louisania was driven by the closing off of waters previously open to the public, a Washington Post article said. BASS is the creator of the Bassmaster Classic, one of the most prominent professional fishing tournaments in the world.

“Louisiana just has some very peculiar laws that don’t mesh well with tournaments, and that’s going to deter a lot of recreational fishermen as well. Who knows how much they will lose,” Gene Gilliand, BASS’s conservation director, told the Washington Times.

For some residents of the area, BASS’s decisions is a microcosm of the larger issues created by myriad environmental lawsuits filed after the BP oil spill.

These lawsuits stem not only from contamination but from coastal erosion. Anyone that can be deemed a contributor to erosion, such as a boat operator, is vulnerable to a lawsuit in the current climate.

Although many waterways and channels have been in private hands for decades, they remained accessible to the public. But with the fear of litigation growing, many entities are ruling over their territory like feudal lords. Fishermen have been cut off from the waters and businesses from their consumer bases.

“It’s had a huge impact,” Don Briggs, president emeritus of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA), told the Louisiana Record. “We’ve lost an easy 20,000 jobs. The only good thing is there’s lots of drilling in Texas.”

Briggs believes that many of these lawsuits are frivolous, and driven by lawyers, although he doesn’t deny the oil industry’s past mishaps.

“This is about a bunch of greedy lawyers enriching themselves,” he said. “We’re the most litigious state in the United States.”

LOGA was established to fight on the behalf of the industry as a whole from the energy corporations themselves to lower level workers. In the current environment, organizations like LOGA are in overdrive, and despite their best efforts, relief often doesn’t come quick enough for the most vulnerable.

“The only way we have to fight is going to court – you know how long that takes; it doesn’t help the little guy,” Briggs said.