GRAND ISLE, La. -- Commercial fishermen are once again harvesting Gulf seafood off the coasts of Elmer's and Grand Terre islands, an area that's been closed due to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reopened state waters surrounding the islands, some of the areas most significantly oiled, near Grand Isle Dec. 10.
Dean Blanchard, owner of Dean Blanchard Seafood in Grand Isle, tells The Courier it's a very big deal.
When Blanchard's vessel captains heard of the news, they immediately made arrangements to get out to their old, reliable fishing area to test the waters.
"They are out there fishing now," Blanchard said.
The first day back, one of Blanchard's boats, the Master Devin, piloted by James Santiny, caught a few thousand pounds of shrimp, proving their waiting wasn't in vain.
David Chauvin, who owns Mariah Jade Shrimp Co. in Chauvin, and Bluewater Shrimp Co. and David Chauvin Seafood Co. in Dulac, said he hopes to fish the waters in the late spring and early summer during brown shrimp season. The area is known for producing quality catches during that time of year.
"That's an area we have had success in," Chauvin said. "A lot of vessels have worked there in the past."
Chauvin said he has been relatively fortunate in the years following the oil spill, and access to waters near the Atchafalaya River has brought in good harvests.
But for fisherman like Blanchard, the years since 2010 have been far from easy.
"You work 30 years for something and you wake up one morning and it's almost all gone," Blanchard said. "It's been tough."
Blanchard said he's hopeful the harvests continue to be fruitful, as he knows he's playing catch up from once producing 12 million pounds of seafood annually to only 6 million in the years following the spill.