Gulfside Businesses Still Reeling from BP Oil Spill

Boat in Foreclosure
This boat at Hubbard's Marina was seized last year after the company filed for bankruptcy protection. The Friendly Fisherman has since been returned to the marina. (Photo courtesy Bay News 9)
Owner of Native Rentals
Shawn Duytschaver on his paddleboard
MADEIRA BEACH (2011-7-13) -

This week is the one-year anniversary of the day the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico was finally capped. In a continuation of our series on the aftermath of the disaster, WUSF visits some of the area businesses that took a hit in the spill's wake.

Hubbard's Marina at John's Pass and its associated properties have been in Patricia Hubbard's family since the 1950s. Today, she is their chief financial officer.

"The oil spill, when it first happened, I was talking to different prospective tenants about coming in, leasing space," she says. "All three went away."

Her husband Mark is captain of Hubbard's Marina.

"The effects of the oil spill have been really been from one extreme to the other," he says. "It pushed some people to this area mid-summer, which was okay for the dolphin watch and half-days, but offshore, the fishing, everyone thought it was closed so our long-range trips and all-day trips were down 60, 70 percent."

Hubbard says the family businesses were already hurting because of the recession. The oil spill made things worse. The family is still waiting for reimbursement from BP. In the meantime, she says two of their businesses have filed for bankruptcy.

"The anger mixed with the disbelief that this was really happening, " she says, "it was um, like someone died. It was, now we’re born and raised here. We make our living on the Gulf, in the Gulf, but it’s also our recreation. We bury people in the Gulf, we were married on the beach, you know this is so much a fabric of what my family is and to watch that oil spewing into the Gulf, thousands of gallons a day, after day, after day, it sort of morphed into a rage."

Recently, the family's situation improved with the announcement that the Pier Aquarium would be leasing a large section of John's Pass Village. The aquarium is scheduled to open in December, 2012. But Patricia Hubbard says the family's financial future remains in doubt.

"I think one thing it’s done for us and hopefully other folks in the state of Florida," Hubbard says, "is that when the oil company stands there and says this can never happen, we know ‘yes it can’."

Farther to the south, Shawn Duytshaver owns Native Rentals on Anna Maria Island. He specializes in kayak rentals and ecotours. When news of the oil spill broke, he was worried.

“We count on the eco-tours and stuff like that to put food on the table," says Duytshaver. "We’re a mom and pop kind of operation, so definitely some stress there."

Although no oil reached Anna Maria Island, Duytshaver's business was affected.

"My kayak sales went down because no one wanted to buy a kayak and paddle in oil for years to come so we just didn’t know," he says, "so the uncertainty of the situation was pretty scary."

Duytshaver says 15 months later, his numbers are still down.

“I expected more of a renewed interest in the environment because of the oil and stuff and I’ve heard some of that," he says, "but not many more eco-tours because of that, I would say."

His father, Marty, owns the Sun & Surf Beach Shop. He estimates his losses from the spill at around $50,000.

“We were coming off two good years in a row and getting back where we should be," he says, "and when the oil hit we had about a good solid month of business like we had been doing, and then the Europeans had cancelled, and then we started getting affected by the people cancelling on the wedding businesses and our summer was quite off actually. It’s just now coming back.”

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