Sunday, May 14, 2006

Commercial Fishermens Plight

May 19 Article from www.WLOX.com
his shrimp season will be different from others.

"You have a lot of folks who has lost their homes their boats have gotten torn up. They have to repair their boats. They have to get their families settled so they can't go fishing. It's difficult," says Richard Gollot with Golden Gulf Coast Packing Company.

Long-time Biloxi seafood processor Richard Gollot says the despite great challenges, the coast's seafood industry is rebounding.

"The processing industry, we have lost. We had maybe three or four processing plants completely wiped away. Those people are trying to get back up and running again for the season and get on board," says Gallot.

It's been an uphill battle, but Bayou la Batre's Sea Pearl Sea Food Company is up and running in anticipation of the season. While the plant is producing again, six months ago it was a very different story.

"It's been very difficult coming back. We spent seven weeks working seven days a week about fourteen hours a day to get the plant back in operation," says Greg Ladnier.

Across the bayou from Ladnier's processing plant. shrimp boats tossed in the marsh act as a reminder of what happened here when the hurricanes came ashore.

Pascagoula shrimper Ricky Brown sees himself as a symbol of resiliency of the American shrimper. The hurricane is just another in a long list of challenges.

Throw in lower prices from the competition of imported shrimp and rising fuel costs might be and you might think he and other shrimpers would give up.

But instead Brown and his daughter are working together to get his boat, the Beau Rivage, ready for another season.

"It's a tough business and we all got a. we've all got a positive outlook on it. I mean it's all we've done all our lives we're gonna be here. Until something puts us completely out. We're planning on being here. We're a tough bunch. everybody in this business is," says Ricky Brown.

That determination can be found in every port.

"I think the shrimpers in Biloxi are very optimistic. It looks like it's going to be a heck of a bumper year. The weather conditions have been ideal for shrimp," says Gallot.

Update - May 15
Yvonne just emailed me and stated that Bob Putnam is a man of his word, assisting them with financial and material donations to get their house rebuilt.

Also - there was a press release through the Bush Clinton Foundation about assistance for many commercial fishermen through the affected region upwards of $5 million.

And, I have started a letter writing campaign to different commercial fishermen associations throughout the North East in hopes of getting support for the entire industry, rather than letting foreign markets take over.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I just spoke with Yvonne who lives with her husband in Bay St. Louis. They road out the storm up the river from the Gulf, and came home to nothing. The house, which is on pilings, was completely engulfed by Katrina. They both have bad backs, thought they had good insurance through State Farm, and thought they'd be one of the few who had a job to go back to through his fishing.
Everything is different now.
State Farm is accused of shredding documents in order to avoid paying any claims - that Good Neighbor thing is down the toilet.The fishing industry is still in total disarray. The following article explains it. But in a nutshell, even though they have a boat, they have no way to fuel it up, no way to get through the debris strewn boating lanes, no where to dock with any fish they might get and no packing houses to accept their load. Out of ALL of the money spent thus far, not a dime has gone to the fishing industry. LA lucked out because they still had money left from Ivan. MS isn't so lucky.

And this area is #1 in production of just about every seafood Americans eat. So hold tight everyone, it's going to get expensive to eat seafood really soon. Shrimping time is upon us and there's no way to get to them.

Yvonne and Tim are are bearing the brunt of what the rest of the US will consider an inconvenience.

Anyone care to help?

Note - I have been watching the USDA website for any grants or funds for the fishing industry - none so far. Only for farmers.

Fishing industry remains in limbo - Relief funds needed, lawmakers are told
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
The Times-Picayune
By Matthew Brown
West Bank bureau

The recovery of the Gulf Coast's fishing industry has stalled as federal money promised to rebuild its shattered infrastructure has not come through, according to testimony from industry representatives, state fisheries officials and local elected leaders before a congressional field hearing in Gretna on Tuesday.

Boat owners from hurricane-slammed fishing communities in Louisiana and Mississippi are rushing to get their vessels repaired and back in the water, many hoping to finish in time for the spring shrimp season.

But those individual efforts could prove futile if the broader problems facing the industry are not quickly addressed, several witnesses told members of the House Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans. Many waterways remain clogged with storm debris; loans for boat repairs routinely are being rejected; and little progress has been made on rebuilding seafood processing plants, ice houses and fuel docks that were destroyed in Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the witnesses said"Nearly seven months after the storms, our fishing communities look as if they were hit by the storms yesterday," said Harlon Pearce, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

As a result, Pearce and others said, a commercial and recreational fishing industry worth $2.3 billion in annual retail sales in Louisiana is now in limbo.

Using Ivan money

Louisiana boasts three of the top 10 U.S. fishing ports based on volume. It is the nation's No. 1 producer of shrimp, oysters and menhaden, and the No. 2 producer of blue crabs.

Out of more than $80 billion spent on storm relief since last August, none has gone directly to the fishing industry. And despite the U.S. Department of Agriculture's pledge of possibly tens of millions of dollars to help rebuild oyster reefs ruined in the storms, the only money for that effort so far has come from money allocated in 2004 to address damage caused by Hurricane Ivan, state and industry officials said Tuesday. That money, about $1.4 million in Louisiana, was spent on a program that paid oyster farmers to survey damage done to their reefs by the storms.

"Had it not been for money appropriated for Ivan, we would have no money to spend," said William "Corky" Perret, director of marine fisheries for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

'Regulatory purgatory'

U.S. Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md., the chairman of the subcommittee, said after the hearing that he will try to convince fellow lawmakers next week to steer as much as $200 million to the fishing industry through a pending federal hurricane-relief package totaling $19 billion.

That money -- some of which is tied up in "regulatory purgatory," Gilchrest said -- could be used for debris removal, rebuilding oyster reefs, getting grounded boats back into the water and other purposes.

"The money's out there for a variety of things to happen," he said. The crisis faced by the industry, he added, "is a massive problem that has a massive bureaucracy, which apparently is not solving these issues efficiently, effectively or in a time-efficient manner."

Industry representatives said further delay could squander yet another year for fishermen still struggling to recover from last year's losses.

John Roussel, assistant secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said that between 23 percent and 68 percent of the boats within the shrimp, crab, freshwater fish and oyster fisheries were idle through much of the last four months of 2005 -- traditionally some of the most productive months for fishers.

"We need to get those people back on the water or we're going to lose them," Perret said.

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