Louisiana shrimpers and commercial fishermen finally get to use their vessels for more than skimming oil. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Secretary Robert Barham ordered re-opening of commercial fishing waters in Lafourche, Terrebonne, Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes effective August 14. That was followed by the opening of the fall inshore shrimping season on August 16.
According to the Associated Press, shrimpers around Grand Isle were reporting plentiful and clean shrimp with no sign of oil. The fall shrimp season runs from now till December. The spring season (mid-May to July) was closed due to the oil spill.
At this time shrimpers in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are restricted to state-controlled waters, which extend only three miles from shore. Federal waters (beyond the three-mile limit) off Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama remain closed. Fishermen and state officials hope that results from extensive testing may soon change the status of some of those waters.
The open waters in Louisiana are mainly west of the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River. Previously closed commercial and recreational fishing areas east of Southwest Pass remain closed.
According to the LDWF press release commercial crabbing remains closed because testing of crabs is a longer process. Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals regulates oyster harvesting and while most oyster harvesting areas remain closed one area in St. Bernard Parish opened at sunrise today (Tuesday, 8/17).
But the re-opening of oyster areas won’t mean much to some oystermen. According to an August 16 Gannett story, freshwater released from the Mississippi River by Louisiana state officials to hold back the tide of oil that was inundating the marsh wiped out oyster beds that are dependant upon brackish water.
Prime oystering areas like California Bay, Black Bay and Bay La Fourche were flooded with freshwater to halt the advance of oil . The freshwater flush apparently kept the oil that was smothering lower Plaquemines Parish from reaching upstream to Point A La Hatche but at a heavy price to local oystermen.
Byron Encalade, president of the Louisiana Oystermen’s Association, told Mike Hasten of Gannett, “Oysters have been the backbone of this community for generations. This area is the heart and soul of Louisiana oysters. But we won’t be fishing here for another two-and-a-half to three years, maybe five.”