Hurricane ice helps state’s fishers

Mark A. Schexnayder, Morgan, Johnny W.  |  10/21/2008 12:03:50 AM

Ray Gomez, an employee at Pontchartrain Blue Crab Inc. in Slidell, unloads a pallet of ice he will give to fishers to keep their catch cool. This is one of many fishing houses that received ice left over from state stockpiles accumulated for hurricanes Gustav and Ike. (Photo by Johnny Morgan. Click on image for downloadable photo.)

News Release Distributed 10/20/08

When the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) said they were prepared with ice for this hurricane season, they meant it. And what was left afterward is benefiting the state’s economy.

Mark Schexnayder, regional coastal adviser for the LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant Program, said he’s been working to help get the excess ice to people who need it most.

“About a week and a half ago we received phone calls from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and GOHSEP asking if we could help them to distribute excess ice that was left over from hurricanes Gustav and Ike,” Schexnayder said. “I knew some folks offhand who really needed ice, and I began contacting others who knew.”

LSU AgCenter agents with coastal responsibilities and its fisheries agents were soon lining up destinations for 1.7 million pounds of ice.

Schexnayder said, think of it this way, “We were asked to help move 40 tractor trailers with 44,000 pounds of ice each. This amounted to 24 pallets with 8-pound bags of ice on each truck.”

Schexnayder said his goal was to get as many full trucks as possible to single locations, and in just over a week the job was done.

“We put trucks at crab and shrimp docks and at some public docks where fishermen actually unloaded the trucks by hand,” he said.

Ray Gomez, an employee at Pontchartrain Blue Crab Inc. in Slidell, said the ice really couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We’re in the shrimp season right now, and we are definitely using a lot of ice,” Gomez said. “Getting this free ice at this time really worked out good for us because it means we don’t have to produce as much ourselves.”

He said the ice saved fishers money, too.

“They use it to ice the crabs, and that makes them easier to pick through,” Gomez said. “And the shrimpers need ice for icing down shrimp on the boats.”

Schexnayder said they provided ice to fishers all along the coast and as far north as a catfish-processing plant in Wisner in Franklin Parish.

He said shrimp houses and docks in St. Mary, Terrebonne, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Vermillion, St. Tammany and Jefferson parishes received ice, as well as some in Cameron Parish.

Schexnayder said emptying the trucks meant the state didn’t have to keep paying for them each day.

“I never believed we would be able to get ice out that quickly, with no glitches at all,” he said, “But with LDAF and our team working with the governor’s office, everything just worked really well.”

Josh Gill with LDAF said Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain devoted the agency’s sub-zero freezers to the project. He also said he worked closely with both GOHSEP and the LSU AgCenter to coordinate delivering ice.

Schexnayder said Louisiana is fortunate to have a large commercial fishing industry. With crab and white shrimp season now open, as well as the bait season, it didn’t take very long to find locations in need of ice.

Michael Verret, logistics officer with GOHSEP, worked closely with Schexnayder in moving the ice to the people who needed it most.

“It was great to have the LSU AgCenter to help in this effort of distributing the ice, and I’m sure they’ll be as happy as we are to be out of the ice business,” Verret said.

Schexnayder said because of the storms the fishing industry in South Louisiana incurred about $100 million in lost business income along with much more in infrastructure damage.

“We have fishermen with extensive damage in St. John, Terrebonne and even in the Bayou Manchac area,” he said. “In lower St. Bernard, the entire community was under 8 feet of water from Gustav. Then Ike came and put some more on. Many communities got flooded twice.”

Schexnayder said in addition to the fishing industry, ice also was delivered to the Gumbo Festival in Bridge City, because community organizations also qualified to receive the ice.

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Contact: Mark Schexnayder at (504) 838-1180 or mschexnayer@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or jmorgan@agcenter.lsu.edu  

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