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COVID shutdowns and hurricanes rock Louisiana’s fishing industry | local news

A shrimp boat in Barataria Bay, La.

William A. Morgan/

Hurricanes alone are reported to cost $570 million in total revenue and resource losses

(The Center Square) – During the pandemic, the state’s fishing industry has been shut down.

After business resumed, a series of storms and hurricanes devastated areas where those who depend on the state’s bountiful crops of crawfish, shrimp, crab, oysters and alligators make a living.

The double whammy took a devastating toll on Louisiana, the country’s second-largest fish supplier, and when it fully recovers remains to be seen.

“Boats are still stranded in certain areas,” said Samantha Carroll, executive director of Louisiana Seafood.

While the 2022 season offered a hurricane-free respite, “people were still trying to pick up the pieces,” struggling to find fuel, bait and other essentials, she said.

“It’s been waiting for everything to come back up for these fishermen to get back on the water and it’s been a while,” Carroll said. “It’s going to be a long recovery for our coast, the fishing industry.”

The impact is undoubtedly being felt across the state, where one in 70 jobs is tied to industry. Louisiana Seafood estimates the industry’s economic impact at $2.4 billion.

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

“Not only did the four hurricanes cause an estimated $304 million in damage to fishing infrastructure, but the hurricanes also significantly reduced industry revenues from various seafood products,” Louisiana’s Public Affairs Research Council wrote in a recent industry review. “The estimated lost revenue for Louisiana fishing companies in 22 coastal communities totaled $155 million, and the remaining $118 million came from losses of natural resources such as oysters and fish.”

Jack Isaacs, an economist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said efforts are underway to estimate the recovery of various seafood species in Louisiana, with definitive data likely to be available in the coming months.

“There was a decline in several parameters during the period, but it is difficult to isolate the impact of COVID from other factors that are both positive and negative for the fishing industry,” he said. “The industry is going through a lot of difficulties right now, it always faces some kind of challenge.

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

For shrimp, the government-imposed closure during the pandemic “has really hurt us, but the biggest problem is shrimp coming into the country,” Acy Cooper, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, told The Center Square.

America consumes about 1.5 billion pounds of shrimp a year, while imported shrimp reach 2.2 billion pounds annually, he said.

The situation started well before COVID, but the pandemic and hurricanes “made it 10 times worse” and pushed annual transport down from about £100m a year to about £74m last year, Cooper said.

“That only exacerbated the problem,” he said. “Once they’ve taken market share, it’s hard to come back.”

The tide of foreign shrimp, which Cooper says often comes with antibiotics and other undesirables, has also conspired with higher gas prices and inflation to further pressure shrimp fishermen, who are now getting a fraction of the prices they were getting a decade ago have.

“We’ll come back to that, the only problem is the prices are so low and the fuel is so high,” he said, adding that the number of crab fishermen in Louisiana has fallen to about 6,000 from 20,000 in 2002. “We’re resilient, but the way we’re going about it, we’re not going to be okay.”