DELCAMBRE — A Port of Delcambre program that uses the Internet to connect fishermen with seafood lovers who want to buy directly off the boat is spawning similar programs across the Louisiana coast.
“That thing has really taken off. They want to expand it across the state,” Port of Delcambre Director Wendell Verret said.
The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission has awarded a $560,000 grant to launch new direct marketing programs for fishing communities in three other regions — Cameron Parish, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, and the New Orleans area.
The commission, a five-state coalition that works to manage Gulf Coast fisheries, learned of the Delcambre program and believed it could serve as a model in other areas, said Thomas Hymel, an agent with the LSU Agricultural Center and the Louisiana Sea Grant program.
He manages the Delcambre Direct Seafood program at the port and will oversee the expansion.
The new marketing programs should be up and running by the spring 2012 shrimp season, Hymel said.
The key feature of the Delcambre program is an Internet site where fishermen can post information on when they will be returning to the dock and how much shrimp they have.
The site includes profiles of each fisherman — where he is from, how long he’s been in business — and telephone numbers, allowing customers to contact the fishermen directly to make arrangements for purchase.
The program also sends out email updates and newsletters to keep customers apprised of how the season is going.
“The goal of the program was to make it easier for the public to contact the shrimpers and make a business deal,” Hymel said.
The Delcambre marketing effort launched in the spring of 2010, and the response from both the fishermen and the public has been “phenomenal,” Hymel said.
He said 25 fishermen are now participating in the program, and many have been posting Internet updates about their catch since the fall shrimp season began Aug. 22.
Most independent fishermen have always sold directly to customers, but the new marketing system uses technology to refine and expand that direct connection, Hymel said.
“The phone rings more,” said Cheryl Granger, who with her husband, “Big Al” Granger, has made a living off shrimp, crabs and fish for 20 years.
“He catches them, and I sell them,” she said.
Cheryl Granger said Delcambre’s marketing program helps reach out to south Louisiana residents who might not realize the bounty of seafood in their backyard.
“People just don’t know where you can get something fresh,” she said.
She said selling directly to customers is critical to keeping the family business afloat, because processors are not paying enough to make ends meet.
Fishermen can often make more than two times what they would make selling their seafood to a processor, Hymel said, and customers who buy directly from fishermen generally pay half of what they would pay at a store.
Hymel said direct marketing could offer a new economic model for sustaining what remains of the state’s fishing industry, which has struggled in recent years to contend with low-priced imports, high fuel prices, hurricanes and oil spills.
“We used to have, in Delcambre, well over 100 shrimp boats. Now, there are maybe 20 local boats,” he said.
The seafood marketing program is one of several revitalization projects at the Port of Delcambre, supported in part by grants and in part by a property tax that voters in the area approved in 2009.
Construction is expected to be complete by November on a new $1 million marina on the Delcambre Canal to attract recreational boaters, said Verret, the port director.
He said some of the slots in the 38-slip marina will be able to accommodate boats up to 50 feet in length.
“The nearest marina for boats of that size is Cypremort Point. Other than that, it’s hard to find a place for a boat like that to park,” Verret said.
The port is also planning a $2.4 million project along the Delcambre Canal that will include a new boat launch, a fishing pier, shrimp boat docks and a pavilion where fishermen can sell their catch, Verret said.
ON THE INTERNET:
For more information on the Port of Delcambre and the Delcambre Direct Seafood marketing program,