Fisheries agents protect and defend Louisiana’s fishing industry

Kevin Savoie, Schultz, Bruce  |  12/3/2018 9:24:02 PM

Bruce Schultz and Kevin Savoie

For the past 50 years, Louisiana Sea Grant has played a vital role in the coastal community, assisting with its expertise in the marine environment and helping the seafood industry maintain its essential role in the state’s economy.

Stationed on the coast and working directly with the fishermen are eight Sea Grant and LSU AgCenter fisheries agents. One of these agents is Kevin Savoie, headquartered in Cameron Parish. Among his activities are helping the fishing industry find buyers for seafood, as well as assisting with programs to make their work safer and more efficient with technology transfer.

“It’s really about helping the local community find a better way to do things,” Savoie said.

Finding buyers comes about with phone calls, or with a website (louisianadirectseafood.com) and the Cameron Direct Seafood Facebook page to let the public know about a shrimper with a fresh catch available for sale. Savoie said buyers of Cameron Parish seafood come from as far away as Illinois, Las Vegas and Miami, Florida.

Savoie works with freshwater and saltwater fisheries, so one morning he may be helping a crawfish operation and then later give suggestions to a shrimper.

Savoie said the four main goals of Louisiana Sea Grant are a healthy ecosystem, sustainable fisheries, a resilient coastal community, and environmental literacy and workforce development. Working in partnerships with federal, state and local governmental agencies, Sea Grant has helped with several programs.

Here is Savoie’s account of what he does to benefit Calcasieu and Cameron parishes:

We help Louisianians ‘find better ways to do things’

Hurricane Rita recovery

In September 2005, Hurricane Rita made landfall at the Louisiana/Texas border, dealing a mighty blow to southwest Louisiana and devastating Cameron Parish. The 125‐mile‐per‐hour winds and 10‐foot storm surge left Cameron’s infrastructure in shambles.

Businesses were heavily damaged, including the seafood industry. Landing docks, ice plants, fuel docks and many vessels were destroyed. Sea Grant worked on a state, federal and private corporate level to assist in getting the seafood industry back on its feet. Shell Oil donated ice machines to be placed at strategic locations across the Louisiana coast to provide ice to the seafood industry, one of which was located in Cameron.

Louisiana Sea Grant was instrumental in forming the Louisiana Seafood Industry Recovery Coalition, which petitioned the Louisiana Recovery Authority for funding. They were successful and received $20 million for seafood recovery projects across the coast. The Cameron Fisheries Project received the largest grant award and built a state-of-the-art landing and processing facility to produce high-quality and safe seafood products.

Also after the hurricane, Louisiana Sea Grant partnered with local commercial and recreational fishermen to mark and map debris scattered into Calcasieu Lake by Rita. GPS technology was used to locate items, and much of the debris was removed from the waterway.

Natural fisheries

The spotted sea trout, or speckled trout, is one of the most sought-after fish species in coastal Louisiana. Calcasieu Lake is a mecca for anglers seeking to land a trophy-sized spotted sea trout in Louisiana. In a series of educational meetings with recreational and charter fishermen, a common theme arose about how old were these big (25 inches and longer) trout and where they go in summer.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries database did not have much information about these large trout because sampling methods excluded them. Sea Grant partnered with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to recruit volunteer anglers and charter fishermen to try to answer the questions.

The volunteer anglers were trained to measure the fish and remove otoliths, a hearing/sensory bone in the fish’s head used to age the fish. Through this volunteer effort, 254 fish longer than 25 inches were submitted. Prior to this, there were 128 in the database. These fish were discovered to be 3-9 years old, with the majority between 4 and 7 years.

The second question was: Where do these fish go at certain times of the year when anglers struggle to catch them? Do they leave the system and go offshore? An acoustic tagging research project was initiated through a partnership with Wildlife and Fisheries, the LSU Coastal Fisheries Institute and Louisiana Sea Grant. The two-year study began in May 2007, and 120 adult spotted sea trout were implanted with acoustic transmitters. An array of 50 receiver buoys was deployed throughout Calcasieu Lake and the ship channel to track their movements. The study showed movement was different for males and females and varied according to seasonal changes, with few fish ever leaving the estuary.

We also will be working on a study of flounder in the Calcasieu Lake area.

Calcasieu Lake’s oyster industry has gone through many changes over the years. It is a valuable fishery to local folks who rely on it for income through the winter months. Louisiana Sea Grant has worked with this industry to make it more profitable and sustainable. In partnership with the Cameron Parish Police Jury, the Calcasieu Oyster Task Force was formed to give the local oyster industry a voice on management issues such as season dates and sack limits. Through these efforts, the quality of oysters coming from Calcasieu Lake has drastically improved. Over the past 15 years the average price per sack has increased from $12-$14 to $35-$40 per sack.

Giant salvinia management

The invasive species giant salvinia is listed among the most noxious invasive aquatic weeds in the U.S. Under the right conditions it can double in size every five to seven days. It has spread across the state and in the past five years was found in every watershed in Louisiana. It can grow to form thick mats, which clog drainage and block sunlight, thus reducing productivity of waterways and marshes for fish and wildlife habitat.

The giant salvinia weevil, which is reared in nursery ponds and released into existing stands of giant salvinia, has become established in areas of Cameron and Calcasieu parishes and other areas of the state to control the spread of the floating weed, restoring habitat for fish and wildlife and ensuring proper drainage. Sea Grant has worked with Cameron Parish landowners and LSU AgCenter researchers to monitor weevil populations and the recovery of habitat.

Bruce Schultz is a writer and photographer with LSU AgCenter Communications. Kevin Savoie is the Louisiana Sea Grant/LSU AgCenter agent in Cameron and Calcasieu parishes.

(This article appears in the fall 2018 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

kevin 3.jpg thumbnail

Kevin Savoie is one of eight Sea Grant/AgCenter fisheries agents located along the Louisiana coast. Photo by Bruce Schultz

CalcasieuDebris.bmp thumbnail

Clearing debris from Calcasieu Lake after Hurricane Rita. Photo by Kevin Savoie

RitaDamage2.jpg thumbnail

Damage in Cameron Parish after Hurricane Rita hit the coast in 2005. Photo by Kevin Savoie

Trout2.jpg thumbnail

Catching spotted sea trout, the most sought-after fish species in coastal Louisiana, in Calcasieu Lake. Photo by Kevin Savoie

Cameronoysters1.jpg thumbnail

Louisiana Sea Grant has worked with fishermen in Calcasieu Parish to make the oyster industry more profitable and sustainable. Photo by Kevin Savoie

Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture

Top