Gulf industry preps for Isaac
Gulf fishermen should be back to fishing later this week, provided that Tropical Storm Isaac causes minimal damage to infrastructure in the region. The storm is predicted to increase intensity to hurricane status and make landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday in the central Gulf Coast area.
“By Thursday or Friday, we should get back to fishing. It all depends on the infrastructure damage and access to ice and fuel,” said Harlon Pearce, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and owner of Harlon’s LA Fish & Seafood in Kenner, La.
On a Monday conference call with the Board, seafood industry representatives agreed that getting ice to damaged fisheries will be one of the industry’s priorities. “After Katrina, one thing that jump-started the fishery was ice,” Pearce said. Isaac is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane early Wednesday, the seventh anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina that killed 1,800. The Louisiana seafood industry is bracing for a predicted 10 to 18 inches of rain.
Hurricane Isaac may interrupt seafood deliveries for the short term, but Pearce and others do not expect major damage. “If the storm comes east of us, it will actually clean the water out a bit,” Pearce said.
“We expect that it will be a week to 10 days to get back to business [processing shrimp],” said C. David Veal, executive director of the American Shrimp Processors Association in Biloxi, Miss. Gulf shrimpers have been unloading boats over the last few days and the processing plants have been operating “at full capacity,” said Veal.
“Most of the plants will get through processing today, and then they can batten down the hatches and get to safe cover,” Veal said. Hurricane Isaac comes at a bad time for shrimp processors, Veal added. “There is pressure on shrimp prices because of a weak economy. The restaurant trade hasn’t rebounded, and that is where most of our [product] goes,” Veal said.
While the storm brings up “bad memories” of Katrina, it will certainly not have the same impact on the seafood industry. “Hurricane Isaac won’t have impact for weeks or months. I think we will weather this fine,” Veal said.
“Right now, it is just sort of prepare and wait. As a state, we are more prepared than we ever were before: Katrina taught us that,” Pearce said.