May 21, 2007
Reported by Associated Press
Hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005 altered fishing patterns in the Gulf of Mexico, with Louisiana's share of the catch dropping by almost 20 percent and the harvests in Texas and Alabama spiking.
The figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration bolster fears that Louisiana's fishing industry, a cultural trademark dating back generations, may be years away from a return to its former strength. About 35-hundred commercial vessels were damaged or destroyed in the hurricanes -- more than 60 percent of the southeast Louisiana fleet. Docks and other critical infrastructure for the Louisiana fishing industry also were damaged or destroyed.
Overall catch levels in the Gulf are returning to pre-2005 levels. Experts are finding that fewer boats are chasing the same amount of seafood, maximizing profits in the short term for those who remain.
The hurricane-related dip for Louisiana's fishing industry is part of a decades-long decline in the Gulf. Production and prices have been falling for years as imports from Latin America and Asia have become staples in supermarkets and restaurants.
Louisiana still brings in most of the seafood caught in the Gulf. In 2004, Louisiana fishermen brought in almost three-quarters of the entire catch in the Gulf. Preliminary statistics from 2006 show that amount dropped to two-thirds.