Louisiana, Mississippi seafood feeling sting of algae blooms
Louisiana and Mississippi government warnings not to eat fish from certain areas of the states are causing the seafood industry concern.
After an algae bloom developed when the Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened to alleviate flooding along the Mississippi River, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality issued beach closures in Hancock and Harrison counties along the Gulf of Mexico.
Subsequently, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) is advising the public to not eat fish or any other seafood taken from “affected waters or in proximity to the beach closures,” MDMR said in a statement. “The public’s safety is very important to our state and our agency will continue working closely with MDEQ to monitor our waters and our seafood.”
The Louisiana Department of Health is also warning the public about a potentially large algae bloom that is developing on Lake Pontchartrain, “while algae toxins have not been found in the edible parts of fish, LDH advises that fish not be harvested or eaten from the lake during the bloom,” the agency said in a statement.
In southern Mississippi, news reports on the beach closures and seafood caution are causing concerns among consumers and the seafood industry.
“The way the news reports these things really hurts tourism and restaurants around here,” Jeremy Forte, assistant manager of Jerry Forte Seafood in Pass Christian, Mississippi, told SeafoodSource. “I have had a couple of customers ask me about it and I tell them that we are monitored by the Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Quality, and the Department of Marine Resources – all the organizations that keep consumers safe.”
The shrimp that Jerry Forte Seafood is supplying to consumers, restaurants, and other customers is not from waters near the closed beaches; it is currently from near Alabama, Forte said.
The main seafood species impacted by freshwater from the Bonnet Carre Spillway mixing with saltwater is oysters. Oyster mortality on Mississippi harvest reefs was higher than 90 percent for all reefs except one, MDMR reported. “Oyster mortality on the reefs have continued to increase as the spillway remains open,” the agency said.
And, while the commercial shrimp season in Mississippi opened on 20 June, the overall catch has been low. Brown shrimp in state monitoring trawls has plummeted 82 percent over the past four weeks compared to the prior five-year average, according to MDMR.
“By far, it is the worst shrimp season my father [Jerry Forte] has seen since the ‘70s,” Forte said.
While commercial landings of blue crab were down February through April compared to the prior five-year average, landings in May increased and were similar to the prior five years.