Local commercial fishermen report crippling shrimp and crab shortage

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wwltv.com

Posted on August 9, 2013 at 10:49 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 9 at 11:01 PM

Jaclyn Kelley / Eyewitness News
Email: jkelley@wwltv.com | Twitter: @jkelleyWWL

NEW ORLEANS -- it is a multi-million dollar industry, and 68 percent of the shrimp harvested in the U.S. comes from Texas and Louisiana.

However, this year local fisherman say the shrimp and crab supply is at an all-time low.

"Fisherman cry right away when they aren't making money and this has been a bad year" said commercial fisherman Pete Gerica.

Gerica says this is the worse he has seen in 25 years, "Nobody is fishing close to home, Lake Pontchartrain has been like a ghost town, you go out there and you hardly see a fisherman out there."

The local seafood industry depends on the Lake Pontchartrain basin and other local marshes for shrimp and crabs, but this year they say the supply and the quality just is not there. So, fishermen are forced to go where the supply is and that is making prices go up.

It isn't just fishermen feeling the pinch. Many local restaurants and fresh seafood markets say it is affecting their bottom line. They say they have to get their seafood elsewhere and it is forcing them to raise their prices.

"Customers have noticed, but it's either we pay the price for the product or we don't have it," said Captain Sid's Seafood manager Don Patrick.

For over 30 years, Captain Sid's Seafood has been providing folks with fresh seafood. Patrick says they have been lucky enough to get enough local fresh seafood to sustain their small seafood market, but he says it has been tough.

"Naturally when prices go up you don't sell as much volume and it is a volume market," said Patrick.

Patrick says there are many reasons why supply is down.

"What caused Lake Pontchartrain basin to not produce like it normally has, I think it is a combination of reasons," said Patrick. "The closing of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet [MR-GO], the oil spill, things have changed and we don't have the same circulation we had before.

Commercial fishermen like Gerica agree,"If the marsh ain't healthy enough, you don't get the big numbers and if you don't get the big numbers, you don't have a the good seasons."

The white shrimp season begins Monday, August 12. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is already reporting low numbers for the season, but local fishermen are surprisingly optimistic it will not be as bad as predicted.

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