The Fishermen and the Dragon and Industrial Pollution of the Texas Coast
The Gulf Coast Reads Committee is excited to announce the 2023 Gulf Coast Reads selection is The Fishermen & the Dragon: Fear, Greed, and a Fight for Justice on the Gulf Coast by Kirk Wallace Johnson.
The Fishermen and the Dragon is a gripping, twisting true crime investigation of a small Texas Gulf Coast town set on fire by hatred, xenophobia, and ecological disaster—a story that weaves together corporate malfeasance, a battle over shrinking natural resources, a turning point in the modern white supremacist movement, and one woman’s relentless battle for environmental justice.
The underlying themes in Johnson’s book are disturbingly familiar: Fishermen in Texas—then and now—were deeply worried about industrial pollution and about the steep decline of their catch in contaminated waters in southeast Harris County and Galveston Bay and other areas along the Texas Gulf Coast. The threat, which continues to this day, is the massive pollution of its waters due to oil and hazardous waste spills, and by large chemical plants located on shore. We explore the book's theme of industrial pollution by featuring records from Harris County Pollution Control and the Harris County Attorney's Office.
On March 9, 1973, at approximately 1326, the tank vessel TIV Mayo Lykes collided with the Bayou Lafousche Barge PC 2901. The bow of the TIV Mayo Lykes, penetrated the port bow of the barge at a 45-60 degree angle and almost cut the barge in two. Only the starboard outer skin of the barge held the vessel together. A large quantity of the 23,000 barrels of Louisiana crude oil and Bunker C spilled into the water upon impact. Heavy concentrations of oil impacted the beaches and water north to Morgan Point, east to the Houston Ship Channel, south to Clear Creek Channel, and west to the shores of upper Galveston Bay. Overall, approximately seven miles of tidal flats and beaches were contaminated as a result of the incident. High tides accompanied by strong south winds caused oil on the shore or trapped in bayous to contaminate areas above the normal tidal zone, as with Sylvan Beach in La Porte. Approximately 519,302 gallons of liquid pollutant, and 400 cubic yards of solid oil-soaked debris, were collected in the 28-day cleanup response.