Oyster fishermen suffering due to flooding

Flooding problem for oyster fishermen

When flooding hits Southwest Louisiana it's those who suffer damage to their homes and other property that usually capture the public's attention.

But high water is often disastrous for oyster fishermen because flooding transports bacterial contamination to fishing areas and thus results in closure of fishing areas.

When it's a wet year it means fewer days to fish for oysters. And oyster fishermen in Cameron Parish say this year has been especially bad. Normally,this time of year Leo Dyson would be fishing for oysters, especially considering it's lent and the popularity of oysters and other seafood during the season. Instead Dyson is in Lake Charles running errands. "I'm in Lake Charles getting parts for my daughters car. Normally I'd be fishing oysters."

He says flooding has caused them to lose many days during this season. "All this rain and we go by the flood stage in Kinder, controls our season and the river's been high so we've pretty much been closed most of the time," said Dyson.

When there's flooding, runoff can carry sewage and other pollution into areas where fishermen normally harvest oysters. And so the state health department closes oyster fishing in affected areas as is the case now. "I had a little bit saved up and we were living off of that but it's almost gone and some of these people with families and children, they haven't worked in two or three months," said Dyson.

As well, Dyson thinks the state needs to come up with a better way of deciding whether closure is warranted. "When you get behind it takes a long time to recover. I mean the fishermen need some help from somebody, you know? Once you get behind like this it takes too long to catch up."

Still, health officials say there's extensive documentation to justify closing waters when there's a flood of freshwater.

And another issue this season:  only a limited number of permits were issued, though that law is expected to change before the next season to give everyone an equal opportunity to fish.

At 9 a.m. Monday, April 9th there will be a meeting for oyster fisherman at the Agriculture Center across from the regional airport in Lake Charles where they'll discuss the oyster situation and legislation to be taken up this year. Senator Blade Morrish is expected to be there.

Local restaurants do still have oysters.  They're getting them from other areas of the state.

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