Hurricane Ida was among the most powerful storms ever to make landfall in Louisiana, and certainly the most destructive to take direct aim at one of the state’s key resources: its fisheries.
Some fishers spent harrowing hours riding out the storm on their boats, but the nightmare didn’t end when the winds died finally down. Ida obliterated property, including boats that fishers couldn’t afford to insure, and it decimated the habitat and the infrastructure that supports the industry.
"We going to be out probably for the rest of the year, if not longer," said Shaun Lirette, a shrimper based in Chauvin, who spent the storm on his steel hull boat that proved hardier than his house. Although he didn’t lose everything, Chauvin still estimated he’d be out $100,000 in business.
Here’s where the federal government can help. U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, has asked the Department of Commerce to provide targeted relief for both commercial and recreational fishers.
“High winds, heavy rains and storm surges resulted in the destruction of fisheries infrastructure, vessels, ice houses, shrimp sheds, marinas, processing facilities, gear, a loss of catch and many other impacts. Low dissolved-oxygen conditions resulting in fish kills have already been observed and the habitat destruction is immeasurable,” Graves wrote. “The declaration of a ‘Fishery Disaster’ with requisite funding would provide the resources necessary to put us on a path to recovery.”
It would also help people in this hard-working corner of the state get back to a business that, in good times and bad, relies on proximity to Mother Nature.