Fishing "Shut Down," Oyster Beds Destroyed by Katrina

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
September 12, 2005

Like so much else in the region, the Gulf Coast's venerable fisheries are in tatters after Hurricane Katrina.

David Bourgeois, of the Louisiana State University's AgCenter Research and Extension, reports that fisheries throughout two of Louisiana's largest southern parishes lie in ruins.

"Commercial fishing has pretty much shut down," he said. "We have no dock to offload a catch, no refrigeration, no ice, and no fuel."

Bourgeois is a state agent for fisheries in the coastal country west and south of New Orleans.

"Down at Grand Isle [Louisiana,] where lots of my fishermen dock their boats, the biggest dock is gone, and there's a 65-foot [20-meter] steel-hulled trawler on its side where the wharf used to be."

Bourgeois estimates that 4,000 families in the two ravaged parishes make their living from commercial fishing. At the moment they aren't making a living at all.

"As soon as we can somewhat recover I'm sure that some guys will start fishing again," he said. "But right now the outlook is pretty bleak. I'd imagine that it will be weeks if not months before most of these guys will be even able to at least start fishing again."

The discouraging scene is the same along much of the Gulf Coast.

Fishermen and state agencies are reporting that Katrina took a devastating toll on the local sea harvests, including shrimp, crab, and especially oysters.

On Friday the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries released a preliminary estimate suggesting that the state's revenue from commercial fishing may take a 1.3 billion-dollar (U.S.) hit from Katrina—a 40 percent decline from 2003.

But the storm's devastation was so vast that exact numbers are still uncertain.

Critical Shrimp, Oyster Seasons Disrupted

Continued on Next Page >>


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