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Obama: Government is fully mobilized in response to BP disaster

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • President announces new iniative to safeguard seafood industry
  • Preliminary talks have begun with BP officials on stronger claims process
  • Obama assures residents that region will bounce back

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama sought to reassure Gulf Coast residents Monday that the "full resources of the federal government are being mobilized to confront" the oil disaster.

On his fourth trip to the region since an offshore well began spewing crude oil into Gulf waters in April, Obama announced a new initiative to safeguard the local seafood industry and discussed preparations for his meeting Wednesday with BP officials.

Obama spoke from a Coast Guard staging facility in Theodore, Alabama, where he acknowledged the toll the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is having on not only the environment, but also on the local people.

"There's a sense that this disaster is not only threatening our fishermen and our shrimpers and oystermen, not only affecting precious marshes and wetlands and estuaries ... there's also a fear that it could have a long-term impact on a way of life that has been passed on for generations," Obama said, adding, "I understand that fear."

"We are absolutely committed to working with (local and state officials) to do everything in our power to protect the Gulf Coast way of life so that it's there for our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren," he said.

Under the new comprehensive seafood initiative, federal authorities will increase inspections of seafood processors, strengthen surveillance programs and monitor fish caught outside restricted waters, Obama said.

"Seafood from the Gulf today is safe to eat but we need to make sure that it stays that way," he said.

Obama said he also hopes to hammer out with top BP officials Wednesday a new structure for processing claims so that they "are dealt with justly, fairly, promptly."

He said preliminary talks on the restructuring have already begun, but was cautious about how much progress can be made before Wednesday's meeting.

Obama also acknowledged that cleanup and containment of the spill won't happen overnight.

"It's going to take time for things to return to normal," he said. "There's going to be a harmful affect on many local businesses and it's going to be painful for a lot of folks.

"But I promise you this, things are going to return to normal. This region that has known a lot of hardship will bounce back just like it's bounced back before," he said. "In the end, I'm confident we will be able to leave the Gulf Coast better than it was before."