How Hurricanes Impact Gulf Shrimpers
For thousands of men and women living on the Gulf Coast, fishing is not a pastime , it‚ a way of life passed down through generations. A way of life that was brought to a dramatic halt by the winds of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that tore homes apart and crashed ships to shore. Now, as fishing families return to their hometowns, they are taking steps to literally piece together their shattered lives. Theyre working to get back out on the water , about half of commercial vessels are back to work in Louisiana‚Äîand they need your support. In the hardest hit parishes in the region, nearly 80% of the vessels were destroyed.
Seafood is a major industry in the Gulf states. The region first impacted by Hurricane Katrina was the site of 15 major fishing ports, 117 seafood-processing facilities, and over 14,000 fishing vessels. In 2004, the value of the commercial catch in this area was $596 million. Shrimp was the most valuable species caught in this region; that year, Gulf of Mexico fishermen were responsible for 83% of the shrimp caught in the U.S. However, with imported farm-raised shrimp pouring into the U.S. market and pushing down shrimp prices‚Äîabout 90% of shrimp consumed in the U.S. is now imported , Gulf shrimpers were facing tough times even before the hurricanes.
As a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, losses in seafood production were almost $2 billion in Louisiana. Mississippi and Alabama each experienced losses of approximately $200 million. In Louisiana, projected dockside losses from shrimp for the year are over $81 million, and it is estimated that the year‚ retail losses will total nearly $540. As many as 5,000 commercial fishing boats were destroyed. Many owners did not have insurance and are having difficulty obtaining loans.
The shrimp populations, on the other hand, have rebounded since the hurricanes. In fact, shrimpers have been catching so many shrimp that they cant even transport all of it. Nor, in many cases, can they process, store, or can it. Flooding destroyed much of the fishing infrastructure, from docks to canneries to processing equipment to storage facilities. Depending on the type of seafood, anywhere from 80-100% of Louisiana‚ processors were located in the hurricane-affected region. The last cannery, Bumblebee, closed in December 2005. Fishermen and women are out doing their job, but without the needed investment in rebuilding infrastructure, they are unable to get their product to the market.
The government must help them get back on their feet with emergency funding, specifically to rebuild the devastated fishing communities. As Cecile Robin, a fisherman‚ wife, said ‚All I need is a cane.” They just want initial help and they can take it from there. The fishermen and women who lived in the areas hit by the hurricanes may have lost their homes, they may have lost loved ones. Let‚ help them get back to work.