Albert Gaude, Schexnayder, Mark A., Gautreaux, Craig | 8/26/2006 1:29:35 AM
News Release Distributed 08/25/06
A year after being ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, southeast Louisiana’s commercial and recreational fishing industries are still in the rebuilding stages – and the pace of progress is dramatically different for each of them.
Recreational fishing has made a decent comeback, but commercial fishing still has a long way to go, according to LSU AgCenter experts and others.
Despite those perils, however, the experts say one consistent factor before and after the storm is that Louisiana offers the best commercial and recreational opportunities found in the continental United States.
One of the greatest obstacles slowing the rebound of the state’s commercial fishing industry is that Katrina virtually destroyed all its infrastructure. Fueling stations, ice houses and processing facilities were simply washed away in one day.
Rebuilding all of that is a monumental task, and most agree finding those willing to make huge financial investments in an industry that was in a tenuous financial situation prior to Katrina has been and probably will continue to be a difficult one.
There are those who believed Louisiana’s commercial fishing industry could be successful again, but help was needed to get the recovery started. In the past five months, two events have gone and will go a long way towards the recovery effort, LSU AgCenter experts say.
The first came in March when the city of Valdez, Alaska, donated the use of a Marine Travelift to the Plaquemines Parish government. The lift, housed at the Empire shipyard, basically is a hoist on wheels capable of lifting a load of 60 tons. The lift takes a vessel from the water so it may be placed in the shipyard for repairs.
"It remains the only game in town," explained Rusty Gaude, fisheries agent for the LSU AgCenter. "It is the only public lift operating in the Plaquemines and St. Bernard area."
The lift has been instrumental in getting hundreds of boats out of the water for repairs and then placing them back into the water to ply their trade, Gaude and others say, pointing out the lift is in use virtually all day long every day.
"According to the harbor master, the record for moved boats in one day is 17," Gaudet said. "Considering it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to move a boat, that is a lot of boats."
Gaude was one of many who helped secure the lift and arrange for its 4,000-mile journey from Valdez to Empire. The logistics of moving the lift involved Sea Grant College Program agents from Louisiana, Alaska and Washington; trucking companies Carlise Transportation and Packard Truck Lines; and government officials from several states.
While use of the Travelift was the first major event toward jump-starting the commercial fishing industry, another more recent development that will help contribute to the area’s recovery is the construction of new ice plant in St. Bernard Parish. Located just off Paris Road near Chalmette, the plant will have the capability of producing nearly 40 tons of ice per day.
The effort to secure the ice machine was spearheaded by the Louisiana Seafood and Marketing Promotion Board, LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and government officials in Cameron, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes.
Shell Oil Co. provided $500,000 dollars to be used for the purchase of the three ice machines for the area, and Morris and Associates of Raleigh, N.C., provided the ice machines and the installation.
Each parish was given the resources for a 20-ton ice plant. Plaquemines and St. Bernard agreed to pool their funds and develop one ice station hub for the area.
LSU AgCenter agent Mark Schexnayder says the opening of the ice plant, which was marked by dedication ceremonies Wednesday (Aug. 23), could not have come at a better time.
"With the beginning of the white shrimp season occurring, this ice will be an important step in the recovery effort of the commercial fishing industry," said Schexnayder.
On the other side of the equation, the recreational fishing industry is rebounding much more quickly.
Immediately following the hurricane, there was some difficulty buying necessities for recreational fishing such as fuel, ice and bait. But those who took to the water after the storm enjoyed one of the best fall and winter speckled trout seasons in recent memory, according to reports.
By now, however, there are places to buy these basics – albeit on a smaller scale than before the hurricane. While the infrastructure for the recreational fishing industry is still in the recovery mode, marinas in the affected area are reopening, in most cases with new and improved facilities, according to LSU AgCenter fisheries agents and others.
For those who are making the journey to Louisiana’s southeast and central coasts, the late spring and summer of 2006 will be remembered for both the large numbers and quality of fish caught by sports anglers.
Doug Comeaux, a weekend angler from Gonzales, says the fishing this summer has been one of the best he can ever remember.
"I caught limits of fish nearly every time I’ve gone out," Comeaux said. "My only regret is I didn’t get to go more often."
Rusty Gaude at (504) 392-6990 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Schexnayder at (504) 838-1170 or email@example.com
Craig Gautreaux at (225) 578-5673 or firstname.lastname@example.org