I wish I could report something positive to you, because I hate being the continual bearer of bad news.
But bad news is upon us, and the BP oil spill is most likely to blame.
In a recent story about the decline of the way of life in these south Louisiana wetlands, I mentioned the white shrimp season, which started in August. It’s been full swing now for over a month, and the verdict is out:
The white shrimp season is off. Way off.
I thought it might just be locally, but according to the Baton Rouge Advocate, the harvest is off by as much as 80% in other coastal areas. Grand Isle shrimp dock owner, Dean Blanchard, claims that less than one percent of what is usually caught around the island has been caught this season so far.
The oil spill, which happened April 20, 2010, is being blamed. That is because all marine life that either ingests or absorbs the harmful agents in oil are affected to one degree or another.
Federal and state fisheries’ departments and a few non-profits have been studying samples of marine life for signs of these negative impacts. They recently discovered that the cocahoe minnow, that we use for fishing bait, have shown signs of developmental problems with only trace amounts of oil-related chemicals present in their systems.
This cannot be ignored, because what happens down at the bottom of the food chain eventually makes its way up the chain. Right?
When I was interviewed about the oil spill, my concern was about the larval fish, crabs, and shrimp and how they would survive not only the onslaught of the petrochemicals, but also the volumes of dispersant to which they were exposed. The adult fish could swim away, but younger fishes and less-mobile shrimp and crabs could not escape to cleaner waters.
Even then I said it was a “wait and see” prospect. Now, some seventeen months later, we are definitely seeing but certainly not wanting to believe. This decline in the white shrimp population is also affecting the seafood markets across the state. Some processors have not even peeled their first white shrimp yet this season. Others have let half their employees go.
And the door is now wide open for more Asian imports of shrimp to replace the lagging local wild catch. Replace them where? In big restaurants that boast “shrimp fests” or “endless shrimp”, etc. Did you ever think to ask where they get their shrimp? Yes, I realize that if these large chains advertise a shrimp fest and local shrimp aren’t available, then they must buy foreign. But I suggest to you that national restaurant chains have been serving you foreign shrimp grown in sewage since their inception. It’s just that now, they are just justified in doing so. That’s all I’m saying, but you won’t catch me ordering shrimp at any of them.
The rest of this sob story is that so many of our shrimpers were suffering so badly after the oil spill that they settled for final payouts of $25,000 just so they could feed their families and possibly keep their homes and boats. It was a dire situation, and I submit to you that this recent blow dealt to commercial fishermen by the oil spill will be the final blow for many, if not most, of them.
What they didn’t lose while waiting to be compensated when they could not shrimp in 2010, will be lost now because the adult shrimp just aren’t there. Is this the whole story? Are there adult white shrimp out in the deep waters of the Gulf, beyond the three-mile inland mark? Maybe. I don’t know. I haven’t done the homework.
However, as always, I am open to any of your findings and welcome an exchange on this oh-so-heavy topic that is weighing me down today.
Down to my last pack of shrimp from the May season,