Louisiana’s seafood industries are in serious decline more than four years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded and flooded the northern Gulf with millions of barrels of oil. Recent reports from the state’s oyster and shrimp industries indicate that fisheries have a long way to go before they return to pre-oil spill levels, if they ever recover at all.
Al Sunseri, co-owner of French Quarter-based P&J Oyster Co., told the Associated Press that his company’s oyster yields are the lowest they have ever been in the company’s 130-plus years of business.
“We’re shucking a tenth of the oysters that we used to shuck,” Mr. Sunseri, who is also a member of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force, told the AP. “It’s not even in the ballpark, and there are months that go by where we don’t have any product to shuck.”
Before the BP oil spill in April 2010, P&J Oyster Co. would handle up to 25,000 oysters per day, Mr. Sunseri told the AP. Now his company shucks only a few thousand per day, and some days none at all. The decline has forced him to import oysters from other Gulf states and even overseas to meet demand.
There are some indications that Louisiana oysters, which account for more than 60 percent of the Gulf’s total oyster yield, already may have been imperiled before the BP oil spill dealt them a devastating blow. Fresh-water diversion projects on the Louisiana coast, Hurricane Katrina and a succession of other brutal storms, and agricultural runoff from the Mississippi River have all taken a toll on Gulf ecology.
In Grand Isle and Barataria Bay, two of Louisiana’s seafood-rich areas hard hit by the BP spill, shrimp season started with barely a whimper instead of a bang.
Dean Blanchard, a Grand Isle shrimp buyer and wholesaler, told New Orleans’ WVUE that shrimp yields this year are a third of what they were last year at this time and one-fifth of their levels before the BP oil spill.
Mr. Blanchard told WVUE that the shrimp business hasn’t been this slow in three decades.
“Barataria Bay was one of our biggest estuaries in the continental United States, if not your most productive estuary,” Mr. Blanchard told WVUE. “And once they destroyed Barataria Bay, eventually it’ll end up hurting everybody along the Gulf Coast because that’s your nursery. If you blow up the nursery at the hospital, you ain’t gonna’ get no more babies.”