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Home > Resources & Publications > Newsletters & Magazines > Chenier Ecology > 2006 > 9-06

Resources & Publications:  Chenier Ecology

September 2006

In terms of annual volume landed, Louisiana is second only to Alaska in domestic seafood production. In 2004, Louisiana produced 1.2 billion pounds of seafood valued at $309 million. Annually, the state’s commercial fishermen are responsible for more than 50 percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s shrimp landings, 40 percent of the entire nation’s domestic shrimp and 36 percent of the U.S. oyster production.

In 2003, the ports of Empire-Venice, Intracoastal City and Cameron were three of the nation’s top four commercial fishing ports in terms of volume, according to the Louisiana Fishing Community Rebuilding Coalition Report.

Even before the hurricanes of ’05, Louisiana’s commercial fishing industry was feeling the squeeze brought on by depressed shrimp prices caused by a flood of seafood imports and high fuel prices. Shrimp imports for the first four months of 2006 showed an increase of 12.9 percent, or 41 million pounds of shrimp, over the same period the previous year. This equates to an increase of more than 10 million pounds per month, which is equal to the amount of shrimp exported to the U.S. each month by Ecuador, the second leading shrimp supplier behind Thailand.

Disaster relief for fishermen has been minimal up to this point. The harvesting fleet was reduced by as much as 60 percent in some areas, and nearly all fishermen have experienced some losses. Infrastructure has been impacted, from harvesting gear on vessels to docks, loading and storage facilities to ice plants and fuel docks to processing facilities, the last step before retail markets.

One bright spot in fisheries recovery has been the donation of ice plants by Shell Oil Co. at a cost of more than half a million dollars.

Since seafood products are highly perishable, the need for ice is critical in harvesting, storage and transportation. The plants were set up in St. Bernard Parish and in Cameron. Each unit can produce 20 tons of ice per day. The old Bolo Ice Plant in Cameron had a capacity of 60 tons per day.

The new plants won’t bring the industry back to capacity, but it is a critical first step in recovery, not only for the local fishing industry, but for the community as a whole. Once ice is available and can be delivered to the dock via a blower and hose, fleets of boats shrimping and harvesting reef fish and other finfish species can resume business with the port of Cameron. This will create demand for supplies, fuel and groceries, which will spark economic recovery for the community.


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