Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Oyster fishermen are a resilient breed.
Unfortunately in coastal Louisiana, they have to be.
In the past ten years they've battled major hurricanes, the worst oil spill disaster in U.S. history and now a massive diversion of fresh Mississippi river water into the salt water estuaries where the oysters live and grow.
"Once the water temperature reaches a certain degrees and the salinity is so low, the oysters will start dying," said St. Bernard Parish oysterman Curt Pannagl. "It will wipe your crop out."
Friday, Pannagl loaded his boat in Hopedale with rocks to use as bedding for his oyster leases.
But, he admits this year there may not be any baby oysters left to attach to the rocks.
"We had so much devastation on the eastbank already that it just any recovery is just going to set it back a little more, personally for my beds," said Pannagl.
Pannagl's partner Eddie Cantrell says when it comes to oysters, fresh water is definitely not a good thing.
"I remember one year, I think it was around the 80s, it inundated this whole area and it killed pretty much everything," said Cantrell.
Oyster harvesting areas west of the Mississippi could also be effected by the diversion of river water. Places like Dulac and Dularge, all the way to Franklin could face some tough times because of all that fresh water now flowing into the Atchafalaya Basin.
"We're going to be devastated," said Harlon Pearce, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. "The state of Louisiana is going to be devastated in the oyster industry and their oyster crop, no doubt."
Pearce also says the state's oyster production was already at about 50-percent because of the BP spill and with the freshwater diversions, that number may be cut to 25-percent.
This is devastating not just for Louisiana, the Louisiana consumers, but for the consumers and restaurateurs across the country," said Pearce.
Back in Hopedale, Pannagl says it could take his oyster beds more than three years to recover from the spillway openings.
"We are taking it on the chin," he said.