Federal Funding Aids Resource Recovery Effort in Hurricane-Impacted Areas
Federally funded reef building activities, overseen by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), are rehabilitating sections of the state's public oyster resources that were impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
Public oyster reefs in two areas - Black Bay in Plaquemines Parish (completed in May) and Mississippi Sound in St. Bernard Parish (beginning in June) - are being rehabilitated with approximately $2.3 million federal hurricane disaster grant funding, part of $53 million in resource recovery funds provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC).
"These initial expenditures of federal dollars will greatly assist our efforts to stimulate productive reef growth, and both commercial and recreational fishing interests will see the benefit," said Bryant Hammett, LDWF secretary. "Our congressional delegation and the state's fishing industry leaders came together quickly after the hurricanes of 2005, the recovery funding needs were determined and today we are seeing the results of those efforts."
Approximately 200 acres of existing oyster reefs are being rehabilitated in each area this spring. The process involves placing cultch material (limestone, crushed concrete, oyster shell, etc.) on the reefs to provide suitable substrate for larval oyster attachment.
Approximately $10 million is currently programmed for oyster rehabilitation in the public oyster areas. Additional funds will be spent in subsequent years in various public oyster areas throughout the Louisiana coast. In addition to the $10 million for public oyster rehabilitation, approximately $12 million is being used to assist with rehabilitation work performed on private oyster leases under the Private Oyster Lease Rehabilitation (POLR) program.
The Louisiana oyster industry in 2003 produced a harvest valued at $33.4 million annually, supporting 3,300 jobs and generating $11 million in tax revenue for the state.
In the September 2005 to August 2006 harvest period following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the state's oyster harvest was reduced 26 percent when compared to the five-year, pre-storm average. That percentage is based on the 10.2 million pounds of oysters landed post-Katrina/Rita versus the 13.8 million-pound, average annual landings in the previous five years. The number of jobs within the state's oyster industry, post-Katrina/Rita, has not yet been determined.
"The Louisiana Fishing Community Recovery Coalition (LFCRC), working with the assistance of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, assessed resource damage in the fall of 2005 and determined recovery funding needs," said Mike Voisin, Louisiana Oyster Task Force Chairman and Co-Chair of the LFCRC. "The state's congressional leaders who worked to get us to this point are to be commended for their efforts as we work to rebuild the state's fishing industry."
Additional phases of the fisheries resource recovery work will include removing debris from the traditional coastal fishing grounds critical to the state's commercial and recreational fishing industries. The grant also will fund monitoring programs to track both the recovery of fishery resources as well as that of the fishing industries.
For more information, contact Jim Hanifen at 225-765-2383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.