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Ecotourism Offers the Seafood Industry New Revenue Streams

Living in south Louisiana demands resiliency. Whether recovering from storms, adapting to coastal land loss or evolving a business, living on the coast requires flexibility and creativity. Kim and David Chauvin exemplify this.

The Chauvins have been shrimping for 30 years. They’ve weathered many storms – both literal and figurative. When cheap imports flooded the market, they cultivated relationships with restaurants, stores and roadside stands. When customers were displaced by Katrina, they trucked shrimp across state lines. After the BP Oil Spill, they dutifully subjected their shrimp to testing, demonstrating that it was safe to eat.

But it was a trip far from warm Gulf waters that sparked a new idea for the family business. On a Tennessee farm, Kim saw the effective combination of a bustling gift shop and an assortment of activities and games to lure customers. She took this seed home and translated it into Down the Bayou Shrimp Tours.

“Ecotourism will be extremely important to our industry,” Kim concluded from her experience.

Traditionally, ecotourism has meant charter fishing and waterfowl hunting. But recently, there has been more interest across the coast in birding, photography, marsh tours, airboat rides, alligator hunts, shrimping excursions and what has been coined “sea to table” events.

Louisiana Sea Grant has sponsored or co-hosted a number of ecotourism workshops from Belle Chase to Cameron – all drawing large crowds. Coastal landowners, farmers, marina owners, fishermen and others learned about income opportunities from nature-based tourism, liability and legal considerations, the economics of the industry and heard ecotourism success stories. The Chauvins want to be one of those success stories and could serve as an example of how a traditional, family-owned shrimping business can expand its horizons and revenues.

Down the Bayou Shrimp Tours provides visitors a glimpse into the shrimping business as they follow shrimp from the boat to the processing plant to the market and learn about the substantial infrastructure behind the industry. They also get a lesson in conservation as they learn about the sustainability of the domestic harvest and the environmental and economic problems with shrimp imports. “We want to educate those who visit, for them to have fun, to taste the greatness of our fresh seafood and for them to go out and tell others.”

Louisiana Sea Grant Seafood Industry Liaison Julie Falgout can attest to the Chauvins’ prowess in sharing the message of the shrimping community. “Kim does such a good job explaining the industry – what goes on the boat, how it comes in, where it’s coming from. This new venture will showcase another opportunity for those in the shrimping industry.”

“My ultimate goal is to become a destination for tourists where they can purchase their seafood, learn about our industry, enjoy the atmosphere
and eat fresh seafood as it’s cooked for them,” said Kim.