It’s too early to tell for sure, but some of Louisiana’s aquaculture industries evaded serious damage from Hurricane Katrina, while others may have suffered significant problems, according to experts with the LSU AgCenter.
"I can’t imagine that the oyster industry hasn’t suffered significant damage," said Dr. Robert Romaire, resident director of the LSU AgCenter’s Aquaculture Research Station in Baton Rouge.
He said although Katrina sloshed through the Gulf off southeastern Louisiana, it’s too early to begin to assess any damages to the Louisiana oyster industry. Early estimates from industry observers suggest 20 percent to 30 percent of Louisiana’s oyster boats have been lost, and many leases have been scoured away or silted over.
Romaire added it’s also too early to accurately assess the effects on the state’s alligator industry.
"We do have some significant alligator farms in the Florida parishes," Romaire said. "Some could have been damaged and lost some of their animals. The same could have happened to turtle farms."
Mark Shirley, an LSU AgCenter aquaculture agent, said he had no word yet on the condition of the operations at alligator farms in the Hammond area.
"Babies are hatching at present and should be stocking into buildings now," he said. "Without electricity to run water wells, sheds cannot be flushed. Food delivery is impossible."
Shirley said one of two mills that make alligator food is in Franklinton in Washington Parish – among the areas hit by the storm and where communications still are difficult to impossible.
"They probably cannot get ingredients to the mill for a while – if they are still able to function," he said.
Shirley added that another couple of farms in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes may be all right with just minor, temporary flooding.
LSU AgCenter aquaculture specialist Dr. Greg Lutz said the biggest exposure for turtle farmers is the egg cleaning and incubating buildings typically found at most operations.
Although he had not had any first-hand reports, Lutz said, "We may have had some wind damage to some of these structures. Unfortunately, this is the time of year when most of them are filled with hatchlings, and they are typically not real sturdy."
Romaire said crawfish and catfish producers apparently avoided physical or biological damage to their operations in the aftermath of the hurricane. Most of these Louisiana industries are out of the area of Katrina’s effects.
Crawfish producers should not have any problems associated with the storm, Romaire said. Most are located in south central and southwestern Louisiana.
"I think the storm will have a minimum impact on crawfish production as a whole, although it may have a significant impact on the few producers within its reach," said Dr. Ray McClain, an aquaculture professor at the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station in Crowley.
"Dry conditions here in the south central region may impact production to a much greater extent," he said.
While the crawfish producers, who are primarily in southwestern Louisiana, avoided damage, marketing may be an issue by spring, Romaire said. New Orleans is a major market for their products, and the loss of tourism for the foreseeable future may put a damper on prices for 2006.
The LSU AgCenter experts also said catfish producers should have few problems unless they have power losses, which could affect aeration of ponds.
Their assessments are that catfish and crawfish producers have seen little or no damage.
Robert Romaire at (225) 765-2848 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Shirley at (337) 898-4335 or email@example.com
Greg Lutz at (225) 765-2848 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ray McClain at (337) 788-7531 or email@example.com
Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or firstname.lastname@example.org