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BP ending Gulf oil-spotting program

GULF OF MEXICO — BP is ending the program that hired coastal boats to scout for oil in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi during the Gulf of Mexico spill.

Administrators in Mobile said yesterday they were shutting down the vessel of opportunity program in the three states. It continues operating in coastal Louisiana, where officials say oil is still hitting the shore.

BP calls the program highly successful, although it was widely criticized during the summer for hiring recreational boats and out-of-state craft while some local commercial boats sat idle.

The company says almost 3,500 boats worked in the program, which cost some $500 million across the Gulf region. Boat operators both looked for oil on the coast and helped in the cleanup by skimming for oil and deploying oil barriers.

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