La. seafood industry assesses Isaac damage

Louisiana's seafood industry is suffering tens of millions of dollars' worth of losses after Hurricane Isaac swept through the area on 29 August. Oyster harvesting has slowed down and normal supply is expected to resume by late October.

“One week of Louisiana seafood is worth USD 45 million, and 45 percent of the seafood production comes from the areas hardest hit. Dealers and processors lost a week or more out of their lives and, in some cases, the infrastructure damage is as bad or worse than Hurricane Katrina,” said Harlon Pearce, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

Pearce and several representatives from the Louisiana seafood industry plan to visit congressional representatives in Washington, D.C., next Tuesday, to encourage funding for seafood businesses impacted by the storm.

“Everybody has been shut down for one or two weeks. The boats went much further north this time and getting back to work is taking longer for people in impacted areas,” said Mike Voisin, owner of oyster processor Motivatit Seafoods in Houma, La.

Hurricane Isaac resulted in more flooding and infrastructure damage than Hurricane Katrina in certain areas because the storm stayed over Louisiana and Mississippi for 54 hours with sustained high winds and rain, versus Katrina’s span of 21 hours. “The storm surge was greater in some respects than Katrina. Twenty boats sank and there is some infrastructure damage,” Voisin said.

Damage to boats, docks and coolers is most significant east of Bayou Lafourche, industry experts say.

“Infrastructure is where our biggest problems are. Crabbers brought traps in, but they still blew away and containers for ice were washed away,” Pearce said.

The Louisiana oyster industry is still evaluating its losses. Many oyster bed harvesting areas have been re-opened, but some could not be accessed until this week because of flooding.

“The storm surge pushed a lot of marsh grass and debris in Plaquemines Parish. If the oysters are covered by mud and sand, they could die because of that,” Voisin said.

Voisin does not expect “significant” amounts of oysters until late October and possibly early November.

Meanwhile, an area from the eastern shore of Belle Pass to Caminada Pass, off the coast of Louisiana, remains closed to commercial and recreational fishing. The emergency closure, effective 4 September, was due to the “emergence of a large tar mat and concentrations of tar balls on adjacent beaches,” according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.


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