Having grown up on the water and seen the life of the waterman up close (thanks granddad!), I really feel for the people of the gulfcoast region that are seeing their lives turned completely upside down from the blown oil well there. The damage that has been done to the environment there is, obviously, going to have an impact for years to come.
My co-worker mentioned that it seems to him that he won't be eating shrimp -- at least not gulf shrimp (excluding farm raised) -- for many years, if not decades. Knowing how much oil is polluting the sea creatures there, it'll be a long time before anyone can trust that the seafood from that area is safe to consume. Even if the government deems it so, it'll still be questionable in many people's minds, and honestly I don't blame them.
BP has the obligation and responsibility to clean the mess up and repair the damage they have caused and are doing. They're trying to do that now, though they've been slower at finding a solution than anyone would really like. Meanwhile, sadly, the watermen that made a living catching seafood from the region have seen their livelyhood ruined. They can't catch anything without fearing that what they haul in has been tainted by the oil, and even if they could catch something, the buyers are likely under orders not to buy any of the products.
At this point, BP should be setting up annuity payments -- insurance settlements -- for the affected watermen with monthly or perhaps even weekly payments that provide those individuals regular income. Not big, one time, lump-sum payments, but regular income at an equivalent level to what they would have taken home before. Tax-free payments (if done as insurance payments) that will help provide for those people's needs for at least a decade so that those people can continue to make the payments on their boats, cars, homes and schooling and such.
Meanwhile, BP should also, as suggested by my co-worker, be taking those same individuals and putting them to work with jobs with taxable incomes (perhaps they should do a hybrid solution with the annuities that I mention above so that part of the income is taxable while part isn't, but the end result would be an equivalent level of income to what they had previously). Putting them to work doing what? Cleaning up the mess. Scrubbing down wildlife, sucking up crude with giant vacuums or strainers, or whatever they'll wind up using. Whatever tasks they can put them to work doing even if that work is not going to be permanent.
The situation in the gulf is tragic, but it shouldn't be allowed to ruin the lives of the people there, and it certainly shouldn't be costing tax-payers in the U.S. or that region a penny. Every bit of the cost should be born by BP and can come out of the billion$ of dollar$ in profit that BP rakes in.