Photos: Venezuelan fishermen stained by broken oil industry

Nobody lives as closely with the environmental fallout of Venezuela's collapsing oil industry as the fishermen who scratch out an existence on the blackened, sticky shores of Lake Maracaibo. The once prized source of vast wealth has turned into a polluted wasteland, with crude oozing from hundreds of rusting platforms and cracked pipelines that crisscross the briny tidal bay. Much of it coats the fishermen's daily catch of blue crab that has to be scrubbed clean before it's shipped to market in the United States and elsewhere. The sludge smears fishing boats, clogs outboard motors and stains nets. At the end of each sunbaked workday, fishermen wash oil clinging to their hands and feet with raw gasoline. They say the prickly rash in their skin is the price of survival.

Updated On Oct 14, 2019 05:19 PM IST
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Fishermen from Venezuela’s state-run oil firm PDVSA, catch bass known as “robalo” near La Salina crude oil shipping terminal, on Lake Maracaibo near Cabimas. Nobody lives as closely with the environmental fallout of Venezuela’s collapsing oil industry as the fishermen who scratch out an existence on the blackened, sticky shores of Lake Maracaibo. Villagers say they first noticed oil lapping ashore when the petroleum industry’s downturn began under the late President Hugo Chavez. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)
Updated on Oct 14, 2019 05:19 PM IST

Fishermen from Venezuela’s state-run oil firm PDVSA, catch bass known as “robalo” near La Salina crude oil shipping terminal, on Lake Maracaibo near Cabimas. Nobody lives as closely with the environmental fallout of Venezuela’s collapsing oil industry as the fishermen who scratch out an existence on the blackened, sticky shores of Lake Maracaibo. Villagers say they first noticed oil lapping ashore when the petroleum industry’s downturn began under the late President Hugo Chavez. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

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A fisherman wipes oil off his freshly caught crab from Lake Maracaibo on Punta Gorda beach. The once prized source of vast wealth has turned into a polluted wasteland, with crude oozing from hundreds of rusting platforms and cracked pipelines that crisscross the briny tidal bay. Much of it coats the fishermen’s daily catch of blue crab that has to be scrubbed clean before it’s shipped to market in the United States and elsewhere. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)
Updated on Oct 14, 2019 05:19 PM IST

A fisherman wipes oil off his freshly caught crab from Lake Maracaibo on Punta Gorda beach. The once prized source of vast wealth has turned into a polluted wasteland, with crude oozing from hundreds of rusting platforms and cracked pipelines that crisscross the briny tidal bay. Much of it coats the fishermen’s daily catch of blue crab that has to be scrubbed clean before it’s shipped to market in the United States and elsewhere. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

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Fisherman Yanis Rodríguez and his family ride in the back of a 1970’s taxi, driven by a PDVSA state oil worker. Rodríguez used to dream of one day buying a new car and sending his eight children to private school. “But not anymore,” said Rodríguez, who lives on rationed electricity and struggles to find sources of clean water for washing, cooking and drinking. “Everything is going from bad to worse.” (Rodrigo Abd / AP)
Updated on Oct 14, 2019 05:19 PM IST

Fisherman Yanis Rodríguez and his family ride in the back of a 1970’s taxi, driven by a PDVSA state oil worker. Rodríguez used to dream of one day buying a new car and sending his eight children to private school. “But not anymore,” said Rodríguez, who lives on rationed electricity and struggles to find sources of clean water for washing, cooking and drinking. “Everything is going from bad to worse.” (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

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A painting of Venezuelan national hero Simon Bolivar hangs in a bedroom at the home of Rodríguez in Cabimas, the epicenter of Venezuela’s oil industry and once known as “Venezuela’s Saudi Arabia.” The oil production crashed to one-fifth of its all-time high two decades ago. Critics blame the socialist revolution launched by the late President Hugo Chavez while current President Nicolás Maduro, accuses the “imperialist” US of leading an economic war bent on destroying his socialist nation. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)
Updated on Oct 14, 2019 05:19 PM IST

A painting of Venezuelan national hero Simon Bolivar hangs in a bedroom at the home of Rodríguez in Cabimas, the epicenter of Venezuela’s oil industry and once known as “Venezuela’s Saudi Arabia.” The oil production crashed to one-fifth of its all-time high two decades ago. Critics blame the socialist revolution launched by the late President Hugo Chavez while current President Nicolás Maduro, accuses the “imperialist” US of leading an economic war bent on destroying his socialist nation. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

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Fisherman Edward Alexander Barrios organizes bass, known as “robalo,” that he caught in Lake Maracaibo as he returns home by boat in Cabimas. The oily water, petroleum fumes and daily diet of contaminated seafood expose the local villages to a host of potential health problems such as respiratory illnesses, skin lesions and even cancer, according to Cornelis Elferink, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)
Updated on Oct 14, 2019 05:19 PM IST

Fisherman Edward Alexander Barrios organizes bass, known as “robalo,” that he caught in Lake Maracaibo as he returns home by boat in Cabimas. The oily water, petroleum fumes and daily diet of contaminated seafood expose the local villages to a host of potential health problems such as respiratory illnesses, skin lesions and even cancer, according to Cornelis Elferink, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

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Elferink said consumers occasionally exposed to oil-soaked crab don’t likely face a health risk. Elferink hasn’t inspected Maracaibo’s fishing industry, but he led a five-year study of seafood contamination after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)
Updated on Oct 14, 2019 05:19 PM IST

Elferink said consumers occasionally exposed to oil-soaked crab don’t likely face a health risk. Elferink hasn’t inspected Maracaibo’s fishing industry, but he led a five-year study of seafood contamination after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

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A spoon hangs inside a fisherman’s kitchen. Environmentalists say Lake Maracaibo was first sacrificed in the name of progress starting in the 1930s, when a canal was excavated so bigger oil tankers could reach its ports. Sea water flowed in, killing freshwater wildlife, such as some plants and fish. In a second blow, agriculture surged to meet the growing food demand, discharging fertilizer runoff into the lake, further ravaging the ecosystem with algae blooms. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)
Updated on Oct 14, 2019 05:19 PM IST

A spoon hangs inside a fisherman’s kitchen. Environmentalists say Lake Maracaibo was first sacrificed in the name of progress starting in the 1930s, when a canal was excavated so bigger oil tankers could reach its ports. Sea water flowed in, killing freshwater wildlife, such as some plants and fish. In a second blow, agriculture surged to meet the growing food demand, discharging fertilizer runoff into the lake, further ravaging the ecosystem with algae blooms. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

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A fisherman’s feet are covered with oil after a morning of crab fishing in Lake Maracaibo. Today, the lake is an apocalyptic scene that’s getting worse as oil-soaked gunk of trash and driftwood lines its downwind shore. A breeze running across the fetid banks sends the headache-inducing smell of petroleum from perpetual oil spills through the waterside villages of simple cinderblock homes with corrugated metal roofs, exposing people who depend on the lake for food and jobs. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)
Updated on Oct 14, 2019 05:19 PM IST

A fisherman’s feet are covered with oil after a morning of crab fishing in Lake Maracaibo. Today, the lake is an apocalyptic scene that’s getting worse as oil-soaked gunk of trash and driftwood lines its downwind shore. A breeze running across the fetid banks sends the headache-inducing smell of petroleum from perpetual oil spills through the waterside villages of simple cinderblock homes with corrugated metal roofs, exposing people who depend on the lake for food and jobs. (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

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“We should be afraid,” said fisherman Simon Bolivar, named for Venezuela’s heroic founding father. “If we don’t go fishing, we won’t catch anything. Then, what will eat? No one’s going to come and rescue us.” (Rodrigo Abd / AP)
Updated on Oct 14, 2019 05:19 PM IST

“We should be afraid,” said fisherman Simon Bolivar, named for Venezuela’s heroic founding father. “If we don’t go fishing, we won’t catch anything. Then, what will eat? No one’s going to come and rescue us.” (Rodrigo Abd / AP)

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