Oyster fishermen fighting tonging bill - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Oyster fishermen fighting tonging bill

(Source:KPLC) (Source:KPLC)
CAMERON PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

Tonging is way to fish for oysters using two large sticks. Fishermen say it's much harder than dredging, which they do now, and much less efficient.

"It's like using a post hole digger, where you've actually got to dig the oysters up by hand and pick them up and put them on your boat by hand," said Leo Dyson of Cameron, who has fished for oysters for 50 years.

A bill in the legislature would require fishermen to use tongs in Calcasieu Lake, but the fishermen are against it.  

"It would be equivalent to telling the American farmer you can't use a tractor no more, you have to use a horse and plow and rice will cost $35 a pound. No business should have to go backwards,"said Dyson, who now is a seafood buyer.

"Think about the people that have been devastated by two storms and a fishery that's finally turning profitable - that people can make a living - and now this guy wants us to go back in time and destroy an industry in a little town that has nothing else," he said. 

Rep. Stephen Dwight, of Moss Bluff, who sponsored the bill, said his proposal is in response to Wildlife and Fisheries biologists' findings that the oysters are being depleted.

"The resource isn't there. They're not reproducing like they were and the numbers have been declining since they started dredging Big Lake," said Dwight.

He said he's trying to save the industry - not kill it.

"To me it's better than nothing. If we don't do this next season, next year there won't be a season at all. This gives them the opportunity to actually harvest some oysters. If we don't go back to tonging only, there won't be a season at all,"he said. 
 
Still, Dyson said, just like pruning a tree, fishing the oysters by dredging brings them back.

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