NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana shrimpers are back out on the water. White shrimp season opened Monday morning.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke marked the occasion at a seafood processing plant in lower Jefferson Parish.
Lafitte Frozen Seafood lost 80 percent of its business as the BP oil spill closed fisheries and kept shrimpers at the dock.
'We know that a lot of lives depend on the seafood industry,' said Locke.
A lot of consumers still have serious questions about the safety of Gulf of Mexico seafood.
It's more than just jobs. A way of life along the coast depends on the rest of the country renewing confidence in Louisiana shrimp and other local delicacies from the deep.
'I think there's been a lot of misperceptions out there,' said Locke. 'That's why we're here to let people know that it is safe, that there's a lot of testing going on before we reopened state and federal waters.'
Louisiana seafood dealer Harlon Pearce said the opening of white shrimp season is a significant milestone, nearly 4 months after the BP spill.
'To me, it's not just the fall shrimp season to me,' said Pearce. 'This is the beginning of our fisheries, once more in Louisiana. It's going to be a slow start, we're transitioning out of an event, the oil spill back into our regular business that we do catching fish and shrimp for the rest of this country.'
Right now the product in the plant is from Texas and the Carolinas. Folks at Lafitte Frozen Seafood say they'll be happy when the conveyer belt is filled with Louisiana shrimp once again.
'It's going to feel good,' said plant manager Errol Voisin. 'It's going to feel good to get up at 3 o'clock in the morning again and work. Right now, we're coming to work at 6:30, 7 o'clock in the morning to process just a little bit of shrimp.'
Secretary Locke announced a $30 million grant to help restore coastal habitat where shrimp and other seafood live and grow.
'This is my fourth visit,' said Locke. 'The administration is going to be committed to this area until it is fully restored, economically and environmentally that includes the fishing industry to tourism.'
It could be a day or two before we know just how promising the white shrimp season will be.
Many of the shrimpers typically spend several days on the water before returning with their catch.
The fall season usually hits its peak around September and October.