LDWF RELEASES UPDATED REPORT ON EFFECTS OF HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA ON LOUISIANA'S COASTAL FISHERIES

Release Date: 05/15/2007

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has released an April 2007 status report on the impacts and recovery of Louisiana commercial and recreational marine fisheries from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  The report can be downloaded by clicking here and specifically focuses on the composition and volume of catch and fishing effort for each major marine fishery and fishing infrastructure, but it does not address all the effects of the storms on Louisiana fisheries.


One aspect of the storm effects that was not addressed was the differential impacts of the storms across the Louisiana coast; fisheries in the central part of the coast generally were not as heavily impacted as those in the eastern and western portions of the state.  The available information did not allow characterization of the amount of this variation because, for example, fishing effort was re-directed to less-impacted areas where needed infrastructure was available and where debris problems were less critical.


This is an interim report, which will be updated as additional information becomes available.


Significant reductions in landings were seen in several commercial fisheries during the 12-months following the storms. Finfish (several, but not all species), oyster, and menhaden fisheries suffered the greatest declines, with the finfish fishery experiencing the largest decrease in landings (58 percent). While shrimp and blue crab landings were not reduced, value was significantly less. 


Comparing landings data from the three months immediately following the storms (September - November of 2005) with the same time period in 2006 shows that the commercial fisheries are recovering, however many have not returned to pre-storm levels.
 
This may partially be due to reduced participation due to vessel losses in the commercial fishing fleet and damage to fishing infrastructure, such as boat docks and processing, storage, and maintenance facilities, which support fishing activities.


Statewide only 60 percent of commercial fishery facilities were operational immediately following the storms.  At the time of this report, this number had increased to 85 percent however not all had returned to their full pre-storm operational capacity. The number of vessels participating in commercial fishing was significantly reduced following the storms, and while there has been an increase in the number of participating vessels towards the end of 2006, they have not returned to pre-storm levels. Sales of commercial licenses sold has also followed this same pattern.


The private boat and shore marine recreational fishery initially suffered in much the same way as the commercial fishery. There was an initial severe decrease in both the number of pounds landed and number of trips taken during the four-month period following the storms.


However, unlike the commercial fishery, the private boat and shore marine fishery has rebounded well, and landings and trips have increased over pre-storm levels. Landings and trips both decreased by approximately 70 percent in the for-hire industry in the first four months following the storms, but in the 12-month period following the storms, both have increased above pre-storm levels.


While many individual recreational fishermen were severely impacted by the storms, Louisiana's recreational marine fishery as a whole seems to have recovered to pre-storm fishing effort and harvest levels.  Immediately post-storm only 58 percent of recreational fishing marinas and infrastructure was available. That number now is 81 percent indicating some recovery of opportunities for recreational anglers. 


Sales of recreational saltwater fishing licenses, however, decreased by 19 percent over the five year average in the 12-month period post-storm, and were 54 percent below the five year average for the four-month period post-storm.   
 
For more information regarding this report please contact Jim Hanifen at 225-765-2935 or jhanifen@wlf.louisiana.gov.
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