Louisiana, Texas Coastlines Declared a Disaster
U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez declared the Louisiana and Texas coastlines a disaster due to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which opens the door for fishermen and seafood processors to receive federal aid and be eligible for certain small business administration loans.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would distribute the funds. The agency may expand the declaration to additional Gulf Coast states following fisheries impact assessments.
Meanwhile, Representatives of Louisiana's $2.6 billion seafood industry are en route to Capitol Hill today to seek relief for the estimated $300 million in economic losses from the hurricanes.
The group will ask Congress to support Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's relief package, including funding to offset lost seafood sales and increased production costs, as well as repair the damage to the industry's infrastructure and the coastline's ecosystem. The $300 million figure, computed by the Louisiana AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant College Program, is expected to grow in the coming weeks.
"The Louisiana seafood industry needs the support of Congress now more than ever," says Harlon Pearce, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and owner of Harlon's LA Fish in Kenner, La. "Our fishermen and processors are ready to get back to work and are in need of a hand up, not a handout."
Harlon, LSPMB Executive Director Ewell Smith, Mike Voisin of Motivatit Seafoods in Houma, La., and Kimberly Chauvin of Mariah Jade Shrimp Co. in Chauvin, La., are traveling to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the package.