Kevin Savoie, Gautreaux, Craig | 9/23/2006 2:35:42 AM
On the eve of the first anniversary of Hurricane Rita, fishermen in Cameron Parish were celebrating the dedication of a new ice plant that will aid in the recovery effort under way in South Louisiana.
The plant, which is capable of producing 20 tons of ice per day, was obtained through a financial donation by Shell Oil Co. Morris and Associates of Raleigh, N.C., provided the ice machine and its installation.
The facilities have been up and running since mid-August, but they were formally dedicated Saturday (Sept. 23) during a variety of events marking the anniversary of Hurricane Rita’s landfall last year on Sept. 24.
The effort to secure the machine was led by representatives of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and Cameron Parish government.
Kevin Savoie, fisheries agent for the LSU AgCenter, says they hope the ice machine will have a "trickle down effect" on the Cameron community.
"Now that there is a steady supply of ice, more fishermen can return to the water, catch fish or shrimp, and as this industry comes back to life, it will provide an opportunity for other jobs in other areas," Savoie said.
Prior to Rita, the Port of Cameron was ranked fourth nationally in total fish landings with nearly 259 million pounds annually. The majority of this total came from shrimp and menhaden (pogy) catches.
Savoie says the fish and shrimp still are present, but the industry lacks infrastructure, since much of it was destroyed by the hurricane. That infrastructure has been slow to rebound for a variety of factors, including costs.
"It’s expensive to rebuild docks," Savoie explained. "Pilings have to be driven. Decks have to be rebuilt. It can be upwards of $500 per linear foot to rebuild."
The current ice situation is an example of how much damage was done to the infrastructure. Before Rita, a 60-ton plant was in operation along with several smaller facilities that produced ice for local fishermen. Now, the new 20-ton ice plant is the main provider for the entire industry.
Ice and fuel are priority needs for fishing boats when they go to sea. Small shrimp boats, known as "day-trippers" because they usually leave and return on the same day, need 800 pounds to 2,000 pounds of ice for their catch. Larger boats that spend several days at sea need upwards of 15-20 tons of ice.
"It has been a real blessing," said Leo Dyson, a Cameron Parish fisherman, adding, "Before we had this ice machine, there was a real shortage of ice."
Because ice in the Cameron Parish areas was in such short supply, officials said some boats have moved their operations to Galveston where there was an ample supply of ice.