With more storm flooding expected, Louisiana and Mississippi fishermen seek aid
The news just got worse for the commercial fishing industry in Louisiana and Mississippi. Already impacted by oyster mortalities and movement of shrimp to other areas after the Bonnet Carre Spillway opening, the Gulf Coast is expecting flooding due to a tropical storm and likely hurricane this weekend.
A weather system in the Gulf could form as a tropical depression or tropical storm this week, and then hit the Gulf Coast as a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
Already, the tropical system caused flash flooding in New Orleans, and the Mississippi River in New Orleans is forecast to crest near 20 feet this Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
The Mississippi and Louisiana fishing industries are already plagued by Mississippi River flooding. The flooding caused the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway more than 100 days ago, causing freshwater to mix with saltwater, producing toxic algae bloom off the coast of Mississippi and in Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans.
Already, a majority of oysters along the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi are dead, and other seafood species have been impacted.
This week, Louisiana senators and representatives urged U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to approve federal aid due to the impact of the Spillway opening on Louisiana’s seafood industry.
In late May, Mississippi Governor Gov. Phil Bryant also asked Secretary Ross to declare a fisheries disaster in the state.
“We are currently observing significant adverse impacts to all components of Mississippi’s marine resources, including, but not limited to: oysters, crabs, shrimp and finfish,” he wrote.
The mortality rate of oysters in Mississippi is nearly 100 percent, Joseph Spraggins, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR), told SeafoodSource. The blue crab catch is down around 35 percent, compared to what it typically would be this time of year.
Spraggins also expects June brown shrimp numbers to be “drastically down from the past”.
“Brown shrimp are particularly sensitive to freshwater,” added C. David Veal, executive director of the American Shrimp Processors Association. However, there is still hope that both the white shrimp and brown shrimp season can be salvaged, according to Veal.
Some shrimping boats have had healthy catches of brown shrimp offshore, while others are not venturing out because they do not expect a significant return on investment, Veal said.
“You would think this would drive up the price substantially. But the price….is driven largely by India’s supplies to the U.S. Domestic shrimp doesn’t drive the price of shrimp; we always have to compete with imports,” Veal explained.
Importantly, there has been no toxicity from algae blooms found in seafood tested by MDMR. “We have nothing at this point to show any seafood is inedible,” Spraggins said.