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Fisheries & Seafood

Fisheries Impacts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (PowerPoint presentation, 25MB, narrated)


I’ve heard that seafood from Louisiana is now contaminated. Is this true?

Louisiana public health and environmental quality officials announced that data from water quality testing of the floodwaters in New Orleans discharged into Lake Pontrachain and from the estuary surrounding the lake show no elevated levels of toxic chemicals that would warrant fish consumption advisories at this time. Although these results indicate that chemical contamination of fish and crustaceans is not occurring, comprehensive testing of seafood samples by state and federal officials is being developed to confirm this. Elevated levels of bacteria have been found in waters in localized areas, which is typical after any storm activity. However, proper handling and adequate cooking by processors or consumers will kill bacteria and eliminate any potential food safety concerns in seafood or any other meat products. Most of the Gulf of Mexico waters from which seafood is harvested and landed in Louisiana has not been impacted like Lake Pontrachain.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), implement the molluscan shellfish safety program for oyster growing waters in Louisiana. Per normal responses under this program, oyster growing areas that were affected by Hurricane Katrina were closed as a safety precaution until biological and chemical testing of growing waters and shellfish could determine the safety of oysters in these waters. Growing areas to the west of that storm that were never closed or that were reopened because of test results have now been closed as a precaution in response to Hurricane Rita. Currently, all growing waters are closed until test results confirm the safety of the oysters in those areas. Testing has started in the central growing waters of the state in Terrebonne Parish.

Much of the seafood industry in Louisiana, including processors, docks, transportation and storage facilities, that were located in New Orleans or surrounding areas, and also those in the western areas, received extensive damage during Katrina or Rita and their aftermath. The efforts and established programs that were employed by the FDA, DHH and industry food safety officials after Katrina to ensure seafood safety have been implemented in the regions affected by Rita. These officials completed visits or are currently visiting seafood processing and storage facilities to determine if remaining stored product is safe.

All seafood exposed to floodwaters or spoilage due to lack of refrigeration is unfit for human consumption and must be destroyed. The FDA announced that it is not aware of any seafood from the affected areas that has entered the commercial marketplace after Katrina, and DHH has announced that commercially available seafood in the marketplace does not pose a threat.

Further, FDA requires seafood processors to have controls in place to prevent contamination of their product. Any food processing facilities or equipment exposed to waste products, petroleum products, chemical, biological or other hazards during the hurricane must be brought back into compliance and safety before processing resumes.

Limited shrimp, crab and other seafood processing has been re-established initially in the central areas of the state that received the least damage. Other fishing, shrimping, crabbing and harvesting of molluscan shellfish are anticipated to resume as the industry recovers in different areas from the hurricane damage.

(Jon Bell, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program/LSU AgCenter) 10-3-05

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How have Louisiana’s commercial seafood harvesters been affected by Hurricane Katrina?

The range of effects of both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the commercial seafood industry in Louisiana has been widespread. The areas directly in and east of the hurricanes’ paths were severely impacted. The areas to the west of Katrina’s path that received little to minimal damage from the first storm were strongly affected by Rita and its aftermath. Harvesting vessels and processing infrastructure suffered much damage and devastation. Specific information and communication is still minimal after Rita, but news stories and aerial photography indicate widespread destruction of boats, buildings and infrastructure.

Shrimp and other seafood processors in Dulac and Houma that were able to quickly recover from the effects of Katrina were mostly shut down after Rita. Initial reports indicate that only two shrimp processors, one in Baton Rouge and one in Houma, were operating in the week following Rita. These operations have been supplied by shrimp vessels that were fishing or docked in western waters, or by vessels closer to the storm that survived undamaged and were able to get out to the functional fishing grounds. Processors in the Dulac area hope to be operating again in the following weeks, while those in other locations are still impacted.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHH), in conjunction with the FDA, implement the molluscan shellfish safety program for oyster-growing waters in Louisiana. Per normal responses under this program, oyster growing areas that were affected by Hurricane Katrina were closed as a safety precaution until biological and chemical testing of growing waters and shellfish could determine the safety of oysters in these waters. Growing areas to the west of that storm that were never closed or reopened because of test results have now been closed as a precaution in response to Hurricane Rita. Currently, all growing waters are closed until test results confirm the safety of the oysters in those areas. Testing has started in the central growing waters of the state in Terrebonne Parish.

(Jon Bell, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program/LSU AgCenter) 10-3-05

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The US Department of Commerce has declared a “fishery failure and fishery resource disaster declaration” for the Gulf of Mexico. Just what does that mean?

The Magnusson-Stevens Act Section 312(a) of 1996 and the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act of 1986 provide the legal framework to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, at the request of the Governor of an affected State or a fishing community, to determine whether there is a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster following: (a) natural causes; (b) man-made causes beyond the control of fishery managers to mitigate through conservation and management measures; or (c) undetermined causes. Katrina, which falls within the first category, justifies the U.S. Department of Commerce action.

The Secretary of Commerce is consequently authorized to request federal relief funds from the Congress and to make those funds available to the affected Gulf states to assess the impacts of the disaster, to restore fisheries, to prevent future failure and to assist affected fishing communities’ recovery after the disaster. However, before the funds are disbursed, the Secretary shall determine that help activity will not expand the size or scope of the commercial fishery failure in the affected area or any other areas or fisheries. The Federal share of the cost of the relief activity is 75 percent and the state will have to match the remaining 25 percent. (Generally, the state participation is non-monetary). Once funds are appropriated, NOAA, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, will provide various entities with information on how to apply for relief (grant program until 1996 before changing to an assistance program). Eligibility for assistance was expanded in 1996 to include fishermen, state and local government and non-profit organizations.

http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/grants/fda.htm

Hamady Diop, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program) 9-21-05

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How have Louisiana’s aquaculture industries been affected by Hurricane Katrina?

It’s too early to tell for sure, but some of Louisiana’s aquaculture industries may have suffered serious problems. Others may suffer disruptions over the next 18 to 24 months due to interruptions in grow-out cycles or production of hatchlings, spat or fingerlings. Some portion of the farmed alligator operations in the Florida parishes could have been damaged and may have lost some of their animals. The same could have happened to turtle farms south of Baton Rouge.

The storm hit in the middle of the alligator egg hatching period, with many babies already being stocked into buildings. Interruptions in electricity to run water wells and flush sheds, as well as problems getting the alligators fed, could impact production at some alligator farms. Considering the 18 to 24 month grow-out period for hatchlings, economic impacts may not be apparent in this industry until the following two seasons.

Additionally, widespread loss of coastal marsh habitat could result in reduced availability of alligator eggs and hatchlings for Louisiana growers next season.

The biggest exposure for Louisiana turtle farmers in terms of storm losses involves the egg cleaning and incubating facilities typically found at most operations. We probably had some wind damage to some of these structures. They are typically not very sturdy, and at the time the storm hit, many would have been filled with hatchlings. At this time, losses have not been well documented.

The state’s oyster industry appears to have suffered significant losses due to Hurricane Katrina. Many industry observers estimate approximately two-thirds of the state’s oyster production will be impacted. The Louisiana Oyster Task Force, in conjunction with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, estimates that the costs of industry recovery in Louisiana alone will exceed $120 million. This figure includes an estimated $26 million for reef rehabilitation and transplanting on public oyster grounds. The cost for similar restoration of private leases is estimated at $60 million. Additionally, losses to processing, dock-side and cold storage facilities are estimated at $25 million.

Crawfish producers apparently avoided significant damage for the most part. This Louisiana industry is primarily located outside of the area of Katrina’s direct effects. While southwestern Louisiana, home to most of Louisiana’s crawfish producers, avoided direct damage, marketing may be an issue for them by next spring. New Orleans and surrounding areas have historically been major markets for crawfish, among both residents and tourists. The loss of much of this demand may put a damper on prices for 2006.

Apart from some temporary power losses, Louisiana catfish producers appeared to experience few problems related to Katrina. Some producers further to the east in Mississippi and Alabama, however, may have experienced excessive erosion on pond levees due to high winds associated with the storm as it moved inland.

Officials in USDA-FSA were questioned recently regarding the eligibility of aquaculture producers whose crops and/or facilities were damaged by Hurricane Katrina to seek assistance from USDA. There are apparently three programs that may apply to producers of food fish, but not ornamental or pet species. Any exceptions need to be discussed with local USDA officials. The first program is the Non-insured Disaster Assistance Program, which is focused on crop (fish) losses. The second program is the Emergency Conservation Program, designed to restore the farmland or facility back to normal productive condition. This may include repairing levees damaged by strong wave action.

The third is the Emergency Loan Assistance Program. For details on these disaster assistance programs, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/disaster/nap.htm.

The eligibility and guidance for assistance to aquaculture producers should be included in the FSA Handbooks for these programs. The critical step is that producers need to apply for assistance at their local county USDA-FSA office and seek more detailed information and assistance from local officials.

(Gregory Lutz, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program/LSU AgCenter) 9-21-05

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How have Louisiana’s recreational fishermen been affected by Hurricane Katrina?

Recreational anglers spent $895 million in Louisiana in 2003, which produced a total economic impact of $1.632 billion. Commercial fishing generated nearly $2 billion in sales for a total economic effect of more than $2.6 billion. Unfortunately, the capacity to support much of this activity in southeast Louisiana has been disrupted by the hurricane.

Docks and marinas, lodging, fuel and ice facilities, fish processors, bait suppliers and most other services have been affected. Direct loss of larger, non-trailerable boats was nearly 100 percent in some areas, such as Venice. Most residents of fishing communities in lower St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes lost homes. Loss of fishing camps is also considerable, with all camps in some areas completely destroyed and nearly all throughout the region damaged.

Reports are trickling in on which waters experienced fish kills, and it will be some time before the full extent of this impact is known. Preliminary reports indicate that many of the areas around Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas will be on the final list. Sportsmen can keep up with fisheries news and regulations at www.wlf.louisiana.gov.

Pollution from oil spills and residential and industrial drainage after the storm can also be expected to cause aquatic habitat damage and localized loss of fish populations. Contamination of fish and shrimp that are consumed is less likely, but anglers and consumers can check for advisories at www.fda.gov. Keep up with all the information on post-Katrina water quality at www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/.

The recovery of fisheries will be dependent on several factors, including the extent of the kill, percentage of fish killed in a specific area and level of connectivity with unaffected waters. In a best-case scenario, a fish kill of a few acres in an area with lots of connections to unaffected water should be mostly back to normal in a year or so. In a worst-case scenario, a system that experiences extensive kills in all connected waters will take several years before fish repopulation comes up to expected levels.

Permanent damage to “nursery” habitats was also caused by Katrina. Again, surveys have been preliminary, but are consistently alarming.

Satellite photography south of New Orleans indicates that the marshes below Caernarvon were severely cut up. Fishermen will find that area largely unrecognizable. Destruction of marsh edge habitats results in impacts to fisheries production that isn’t immediately noticed, but it will gradually reduce the populations of fish and shrimp. Satellite photos are showing that more than 13,000 square acres of coastal wetlands and a number of offshore barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico have entirely disappeared.

Researchers are headed out to test fish and shrimp for evidence of toxic contamination and pathogens that might affect human health, examine water quality, pollutants, wetland impacts, navigation hazards and the marine food chain. Expect to hear reports about this work before long.

In all this bad news there may be a bit of good news. Offshore bottom fishing is usually excellent after a big storm.
Sportsmen can keep up with the news about fisheries impact assessments and regulations at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Web site: www.wlf.louisiana.gov

Anyone who lost a boat in the storm should fax LDWF (225/763-5421) a copy of their driver's license and a request to flag their boat LA# ______ as missing due to Katrina or Rita. Information about lost boats also can be found at: www.wlf.louisiana.gov

(Glenn Thomas and Rex Caffey, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program/LSU AgCenter) 9-27-05

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How has Louisiana’s charter boat fishing industry been affected by Hurricane Katrina?

Charter fishing has been growing in popularity in Louisiana. Saltwater fishermen spent some $28.2 million on charter trips in 2003. Most of that activity was based in the eastern portion of the state and was hit hard by Katrina. The Venice area was particularly devastated, with nearly complete loss of onshore marina facilities and harbored boats.

Inshore charter guides using trailered boats may have saved their vessels but are faced with loss of infrastructure in eastern coastal areas. Operators of these businesses should remember that, in addition to insurance claims and Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) assistance, the Small Business Administration is making loans for recovery. Visit www.sba.gov/disaster/ for more information. Other disaster relief information relevant to fishing businesses is available from NOAA.

Additionally, anglers and charter operators should be aware that the Secretary of Commerce has declared northern and Eastern Gulf a fishery failure, so that federal relief funds will be available to assess the impacts, restore the fisheries, prevent future failure, and assist fishing communities' recovery efforts www.nmfs.noaa.gov. This should help coastal fisheries businesses to get back in operation sooner.

Sportsmen can keep up with the news about fisheries impact assessments and regulations at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDFW) Web site: www.wlf.louisiana.gov

Anyone who lost a boat in the storm should fax LDWF (225/763-5421) a copy of their driver's license and a request to flag their boat LA# ______ as missing due to Katrina or Rita. Information about lost boats also can be found at: www.wlf.louisiana.gov

More information about LDWF activities after Katrina is available at:www.wlf.louisiana.gov

For more information about the value of fisheries, hunting and boating in Louisiana, visit: www.wlf.louisiana.gov

(Glenn Thomas, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program/LSU AgCenter) 9-22-05

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How have shrimp and finfish been impacted by Hurricane Katrina?

Direct loss of fish and shrimp after a hurricane is common in waters with highly organic substrate. Any waters that gather lots of plant materials, in swamps or marshes, will mix thoroughly during a big storm. Dissolved oxygen is quickly used up, and many fish die. Inland fish kills are widespread in the swamps, bayous, and lakes raked by Katrina.

Reports are trickling in on which waters experienced fish kills after Katrina, and it will be some time before the full extent of this impact is known. Preliminary reports indicate that many of the tributaries of Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas will be on the final list.

The recovery of these systems will be dependent on several factors, including the extent of the kill, percentage of fish killed in a specific area and level of connectivity with unaffected waters. In a best-case scenario, a fish kill of a few acres in an area with lots of connections to unaffected water should be mostly back to normal in a year or so. In a worst-case scenario, a system that experiences extensive kills in all connected waters will take several years before fish repopulation comes up to expected levels.

Shrimp will be different for a couple of reasons. A lot of shrimp habitat has lower sediment organic loads, and the coastal marshes will be filled with new recruitment soon. However, complete redistribution of local populations undoubtedly occurred during Katrina, and people’s ability to conduct a fishery on shrimp or anything else has been compromised.

Permanent damage to “nursery” habitats was caused by Katrina. Again, surveys have been preliminary, but are consistently alarming. Satellite photography of the marshes south of New Orleans indicates that the marshes below Caernarvon were severely cut up. Fishermen will find that area largely unrecognizable. Destruction of marsh edge habitats results in impacts to fisheries production that isn’t immediately noticed but gradually reduce the populations of fish and shrimp. Satellite photos are showing that over 13,000 square acres of coastal wetlands and a number of offshore barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico are gone.

Katrina caused at least two major oil spills, and dozens of smaller ones. At least 46 platforms were destroyed during the storm and at least 16 others were severely damaged. Pollution from residential and industrial drainage after the storm can also be expected to have negative fisheries effects. Habitat damage and localized loss of fish populations are of primary concerns. Contamination of fish and shrimp that are consumed is less likely, but anglers and consumers can check for advisories at www.fda.gov. Keep up with all the information on post-Katrina water quality at www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/.

Researchers are headed out to test fish and shrimp for evidence of toxic contamination and pathogens that might affect human health, and to examine water quality, pollutants, wetland impacts, navigation hazards, and the marine food chain. Expect to hear reports about this work before long.

(Glenn Thomas, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program/LSU AgCenter) 9-22-05

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What harbors/marinas/boat ramps are currently open in coastal Louisiana and how do I contact them?

Many of the places that Louisiana boaters and anglers rely on for access to our coastal waters have been temporarily or permanently closed because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The southeastern and southwestern portions of the coast have been particularly hard hit, with very few harbors, marinas and private boat ramps still operating. A comprehensive listing of coastal marina facilities, services and supplies was developed by Louisiana Sea Grant in 2005. This resource provides contact information that should prove useful as anglers and boaters weigh their limited options for coastal access after these hurricanes.

www.seagrantfish.lsu.edu/resources/handbookinfo.htm#marinadirectory

(Rex Caffey, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program/LSU AgCenter) 10-7-05

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How have oysters been impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita?

Hurricanes can have detrimental impacts on oyster resources and the industry. Large amounts of rainfall and/or storm surge can cause flooding, resulting in watershed runoff with potential pollutants. The pollutants may be chemical and/or bacterial, potentially causing the closure of oyster harvesting areas based on water quality sampling conducted by the state shellfish control authority -- in Louisiana, the Department of Health and Hospitals.

Storm surge can displace sediment and marsh vegetation onto oyster reefs. This overburden can smother reefs, causing increased oyster mortalities due to reduced or lack of dissolved oxygen in the water. Overburden may also hinder future natural productivity by covering the reef or cultch (hard substrate), eliminating future spatfall (settlement of planktonic oyster larvae).

Hurricane winds and storm surge can also damage oyster fishery and farm infrastructure, such as vessels, docks, vehicles, refrigeration and other equipment and processing (shucking) facilities. Most hurricane-induced reductions in production are due to such damage, with recovery lasting longer than the recovery of oyster populations.

The path of these hurricanes impacted Louisiana's oyster industry greatly. Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Plaquemine Parish, impacting the Terrebonne, Barataria and Lake Pontchartrain basins; the heart of Louisiana’s oyster production areas. Hurricane Rita impacted the Calcasieu River, Vermillion-Teche River, Terrebonne and Barataria basins, affecting oyster production in those areas also.

(John Supan, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program) 10-11-05

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How has the seafood processing sector been affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita?

The economic effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on Louisiana’s seafood processing industry cannot be measured without firm level data regarding wind and flood damage to buildings, equipment and inventories, as well as, data regarding higher costs and lost revenues due to unavailability of raw materials. However, we can document the magnitude of the food processing industry prior to the hurricanes, which provides a benchmark for assessing the impact of these hurricanes. A total of 110 seafood processing firms – from 80 percent to 100 percent of specific sectors - were located in coastal parishes impacted by these two storms. For additional information see the attached file: The Economic Importance of Food Manufacturing in Louisiana’s Hurricane Affected Parishes.

The Economic Importance of Food Manufacturing in Louisiana’s Hurricane Affected Parishes (20KB PDF)

(Wes Harrison, LSU AgCenter, Dept. of Ag. Economics and Agribusiness) 11-1-05

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