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For idled fishermen, no business but boom business

Gulf Oil Spill

HOPEDALE, La. -- On the other side of a security barrier, beyond which journalists are not allowed, dozens of men gather around a man wearing a tidy burgundy golf shirt. He's trying to give marching orders for crews of these men -- mostly fishermen -- who have been hired to deploy oil booms near BP's broken well offshore, where oil is gushing into the ocean.

"Listen up -- be a little patient, bear with me," says the man, as the fishermen mill around, smoking, talking. It's hard to be patient, given what is at stake for many here:

"Everything," says one of the men, Tony Goutierrez, after stepping just outside the barrier.

Lining up for jobs
Jim Seida / msnbc.com Dozens of local men gather at the marina in Hopedale, La., to get jobs deploying oil booms to protect the coastline from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Goutierrez owns a seafood dock here, near some of Louisiana's richest oyster and shrimp harvesting areas. His business, Shell Beach Seafood, has been closed since a precautionary fishing ban went into effect here on April 29.

Goutierrez, who grew up here, has three children -- the youngest a newborn. And his wife, a teacher, is on maternity leave, he says.

"This is our season," says Goutierrez, tucking a pinch of chewing tobacco into his cheek. "This is when we make our money. The crabs just started biting … and then we had to shut down."

Goutierrez was in the first wave to sign up to try to contain the oil, taking the hazmat class that qualified him to go out and lay oil boom. He's put in three days out on the water so far, and now has to wait a month before he can work again, to make way for other people who need the money.

Hopedale resident Jim Seida / msnbc.com Hopedale resident Tony Goutierrez would rather be fishing than laying boom to protect the coast from oil.

Speaking of money, Goutierrez says he does not even know what BP is paying him for this work. He was expecting to find out later in the day. But no matter how much it is, there's no real choice, he says.

"They gotta save (the marsh) no matter what," he says of his fellow fishermen. "Even if they don't get paid, they gotta go. … (Otherwise) we might feel the repercussions for 20 years."