year after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed into Louisiana’s
coast, its fishing industries struggle to survive, much
of annual volume landed, Louisiana is second only to Alaska
in domestic seafood production. In 2004, Louisiana produced
1.2 billion pounds of seafood valued at $309 million. Annually,
the state’s commercial fishermen are responsible for
more than 50 percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s shrimp
landings, 40 percent of the entire nation’s domestic
shrimp and 36 percent of the U.S. oyster production.
the ports of Empire-Venice, Intracoastal City and Cameron
were three of the nation’s top four commercial fishing
ports in terms of volume, according to the Louisiana Fishing
Community Rebuilding Coalition Report.
before the hurricanes of ’05, Louisiana’s commercial
fishing industry was feeling the squeeze brought on by depressed
shrimp prices caused by a flood of seafood imports and high
fuel prices. Shrimp imports for the first four months of
2006 showed an increase of 12.9 percent, or 41 million pounds
of shrimp, over the same period the previous year. This
equates to an increase of more than 10 million pounds per
month, which is equal to the amount of shrimp exported to
the U.S. each month by Ecuador, the second leading shrimp
supplier behind Thailand.
relief for fishermen has been minimal up to this point.
The harvesting fleet was reduced by as much as 60 percent
in some areas, and nearly all fishermen have experienced
some losses. Infrastructure has been impacted, from harvesting
gear on vessels to docks, loading and storage facilities
to ice plants and fuel docks to processing facilities, the
last step before retail markets.
bright spot in fisheries recovery has been the donation
of ice plants by Shell Oil Co. at a cost of more than half
a million dollars.
seafood products are highly perishable, the need for ice
is critical in harvesting, storage and transportation. The
plants were set up in St. Bernard Parish and in Cameron.
Each unit can produce 20 tons of ice per day. The old Bolo
Ice Plant in Cameron had a capacity of 60 tons per day.
new plants won’t bring the industry back to capacity,
but it is a critical first step in recovery, not only for
the local fishing industry, but for the community as a whole.
Once ice is available and can be delivered to the dock via
a blower and hose, fleets of boats shrimping and harvesting
reef fish and other finfish species can resume business
with the port of Cameron. This will create demand for supplies,
fuel and groceries, which will spark economic recovery for