Update: Shrimping Industry Prepares for Gustav

Published on
August 28, 2008

As Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf Coast, fishermen and seafood buyers are worried about a direct hit that would send the fishing economy back to post-Katrina levels.

"I'm worried that we're going to lose everything we gained since the storm. It pretty much shuts you down, and shrimpers are already suffering in this difficult economy," says Harlon Pearce, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board and owner of Harlan's LA Fish in Kenner, La.

Shrimpers have already been forced to make fewer trips because of high diesel fuel prices and increased costs of other supplies. In preparation for the potential Category 3 or 4 hurricane, fishing boats started tying up a week before the storm was due to make landfall.

"Anybody who has vessels is moving them as far out of harm's way as possible. You can't do the same thing for fish houses or docks, but they're trying to clear out inventory and move it into more protected areas," says Harry Blanchet, finfish program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Shrimp plants along the Louisiana coast will close by the end of this week, and one shrimp plant - Do-Ran Sea-Pak in Independence, La., which is farther inland - was trying to process 100,000 pounds of shrimp on Friday, according to Pearce.

The impact on the Gulf shrimp and finfish industries depends on its severity and where it makes landfall.

"If we get a direct hit, we're going to be in trouble. Without a direct hit, we'll be back in gear pretty quick. It's shrimp season and they're tough people," says Pearce.

Without a direct hit by the storm, shrimpers and other fisheries may actually benefit from Gustav.

"We've been hoping a storm would come and churn everything up. Since the tropical storm [Fay], catching fish such as grouper has been a bit better," says Glenn Brooks, president of the Gulf Fishermen's Association in Clearwater, Fla.

"Historically, a good blow stirs everything up. But not after a Category 4," says Bob Jones, president of the Southeastern Fisheries Association in Tallahassee, Fla. Of more concern than Gustav, says Jones, is the high cost of diesel.

"We have ports where 80 percent of the boats are tied up. They just can't pay $4.80 a gallon for gas," says Jones, adding that, at times this year, 80 percent of boats at ports in Tampa, Ft. Pierce and Apalachicola, Fla., have been tied up.

Contributing Editor

@EditorsWriters

@FlavorfulExcursions

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500