(03/13/20) KENNER, La. — The biennial Louisiana Fisheries Forward Summit featured the latest technology and information for the commercial fishing industry at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner on March 11.
The event is designed to bring together anyone involved in the industry to share ideas and receive the latest researched-based information from the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Sea Grant and other state agencies.
AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant fisheries agent Thomas Hymel said the industry is facing a number of challenges, including low prices, storm damage to infrastructure and prolonged flooding caused by the Mississippi River last year.
“The high water that we’ve had across the northern Gulf of Mexico last year put a big hurting on the oyster beds that require brackish water, and it’s fresh,” he said.
One of the ways to help the industry remain viable will come from adding value to their catch, he said.
Fishers are being more proactive with their catch by micro-processing their shrimp, oysters and fish.
“Another way for shrimpers to add value is to grade their catch by size in an efficient manner,” Hymel said. A new shrimp grader was on display at the event that can sort shrimp into four different sizes and can be placed on the boat, at the dock or at the processing facility.
Hymel said fishers can get more money for head-on shrimp, but the challenge was separating them by hand was not effective and not efficient. But the grading machine can take care of that.
James Kerian, representing Kerian Machines of Grafton, North Dakota, said this machine will sort shrimp gently, accurately and quickly by size.
“The shrimp grader is a relatively new development for us,” he said. “We do have a couple of customers out there using it, and it’s going very well.”
Kerian said the machine should be able to pay for itself in the first year of use for a lot of fishers.
AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant researcher Julie Anderson Lively said she is looking for a way to combat a virus that is causing mortality in soft-shell crabs.
Lively said Louisiana’s soft-shell crab industry has been in decline for decades, but work is being done to revitalize the industry.
“We see in the lab that the virus causes really high mortality, and it’s been linked to some of the mortality in the shedding system,” she said. “So now we’re trying to see if we can understand the virus more and limit the virus to help improve survival in the shedding system.”
Producers who are producing soft-shell cannot meet all of their demand. “And even a lot of our hard crab goes up to Maryland and the Chesapeake area,” she said. “A lot of those buyers are calling and trying to get soft-shell from Louisiana.”
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser discussed the importance of the fisheries industry in Louisiana.
Nungesser said events like this should continue to be held as long as people can do so safely.
“Seafood is a huge industry in the state, and we will continue to do all that we can to keep it strong,” he said.
Nungesser was among a number of presenters who spoke and took questions about imports and a variety of other issues that affect the bottom line.
Cooking demonstrations were also a big part of the excitement as AgCenter food science representatives fried catfish breaded with a mixture of cornmeal and ground catfish bones.
AgCenter food safety expert Wenqing Xu said her research looks at the possibility of avoiding waste by using the ground bones, which also add nutrients to the batter.
The Louisiana Fisheries Forward Summit is produced by Louisiana Sea Grant, the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries along with other industry partners.
LSU AgCenter food safety expert Wenqing Xu, left, provides a sample of fried catfish that was breaded with a mixture of cornmeal and ground catfish bones during the Louisiana Fisheries Forward Summit held at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner on March 11. Her research looks at avoiding waste by using the ground bones, which also add nutrients to the batter. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter
James Kerian, representing Kerian Machines of Grafton, North Dakota, discusses a shrimp sorting machine during the Louisiana Fisheries Forward Summit held at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner on March 11. He said this machine will sort shrimp into four different sizes and should pay for itself in one year. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter