COVID lockdowns and hurricanes shake Louisiana seafood industry | local news

Shrimp boat in Barataria Bay, Los Angeles.


The report says the hurricanes alone cost $570 million in total revenue and resource losses

(Center Square) – During the pandemic, the seafood industry in the state shut down.

Once business resumed, a series of storms and hurricanes decimated the areas home to those who depended on the state’s bountiful harvests of lobster, shrimp, crab, oysters and alligators.

The double whammy has taken a heavy toll on Louisiana, the nation’s second largest supplier of seafood, and when it will fully recover remains to be seen.

“There are still boats that are stranded in certain areas,” said Samantha Carroll, CEO of Louisiana Seafood.

And while the 2022 season offered a respite without hurricanes, she said, “people were still trying to pick up the pieces,” struggling to find fuel, bait and other essentials.

“He was all waiting for the fishermen to get back in the water and it took a while,” Carroll said. “It will be a long recovery for our coast, the fishing industry.”

The effect undoubtedly reverberates across the state, with one in 70 jobs associated with industry. Louisiana Seafood estimates the economic impact of the industry at $2.4 billion.

A report from the LSU Agricultural Center and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries found that hurricanes in 2020 and 2021 cost the industry about $570 million in total revenue and resource losses.

“Not only did the four hurricanes cause an estimated $304 million in damage to fishing infrastructure, but the hurricanes also severely reduced industry income from various seafood products,” the Louisiana Public Affairs Research Council wrote in a recent report on the industry. “The estimated revenue losses for Louisiana fishing-related businesses in the 22 coastal regions were $155 million, and the remaining $118 million came from losses of natural resources such as shellfish and finfish.”

Efforts are underway to measure the extent to which different types of seafood are recovering in Louisiana, said Jack Isaacs, an economist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, with final data likely to be available in the coming months.

“There has been a decline in many factors during this period, but it is difficult to isolate the impact of COVID from other factors affecting the seafood industry, both positively and negatively,” he said. “The industry is going through a lot of hardships right now, and it’s always some kind of challenge.

“For shrimp, imports drive down prices, and for other species, there are habitat problems,” he said.

For shrimp, the government-mandated shutdown during the pandemic “is really hurting us, but the biggest problem is getting shrimp into the country,” Ace Cooper, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, told The Center Square.

He explained that America consumes about 1.5 billion pounds annually, while shrimp imports reach 2.2 billion pounds annually.

Cooper said the situation began long before the coronavirus hit, but the pandemic and hurricanes “made it 10 times worse”, leading to an annual weight loss from around £100m a year to around £74m last year.

“It exacerbated the problem,” he said. “Once they grab market share, it’s hard to go back.”

And the influx of foreign shrimp, which Cooper says often come with antibiotics and other junk, has also conspired with high gas prices and inflation to add pressure on shrimp fishermen, who now get a fraction of the prices they did before. a decade.

“We’ll come back to it, the only problem is that prices are too low, fuel is too high,” he said, adding that Louisiana’s shrimp population has dropped from 20,000 in 2002 to about 6,000 now. “We’re resilient, but we’re not going to be okay with the way we go.”