YSCLOSKEY, La. – For some shrimpers in St. Bernard Parish, it is what they don’t see on their catch that has them breathing a sigh of relief: oil.
“We ain’t seen it on shrimp or nothing. Not yet, anyway,” said shrimper and commercial fisherman Travis Latapie.
On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven rig workers died and, eventually, more than 200 million gallons of oil spilled – marring marshes and coastlines in four states.
Six months after the start of the BP oil spill, though, the shrimp harvest in St. Bernard Parish is well underway. Vessels of Opportunity are slowly getting replaced by vessels looking for a catch.
“Now you got a lot of boats, and competition makes a difference, you know?” Latapie said.
Yet, what looks like a return to normalcy on the surface may be more of a mixed bag, upon closer inspection. Shrimpers are back on the water, but the going rate for their harvest is not what it was pre-spill.
“Shrimp is hard to move right now, the pricing is not good,” Latapie said.
St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro echoed a similar assertion, as he addressed the Parish Council on where things stand six months after the spill.
“We have a national image problem right now,” Taffaro said. “The rest of the country is still very apprehensive about eating gulf seafood.”
Beyond the impact on seafood, Taffaro said restoration to marshes and coastal areas impacted by oil has been slow.
“We have a long way to go in terms of our restoration and recovery issues related to the oil spill,” he said.
However, there are some bright spots in the parish.
At Today’s Ketch Seafood in Chalmette, what could have been a devastating blow from the spill, appears to have left little more than a bruise.
“We’re moving on, as today goes on,” said owner Jeff Pohlmann.
Pohlmann credits BP catering contracts with keeping him going during the height of spill, by providing him with business when he needed it most.
“We were very concerned because we thought it was going to be very serious to our business here,” he said. “We didn’t suffer as bad as the losses I thought we would.”
Now, Pohlmann said he is counting on returning customers and St. Bernard’s commercial fishermen to help his business fully heal.
“Most of our seafood now is actually coming form here,” he said. “The only thing we’re still having trouble with is the oysters.”
Oysters, though, remain a concern, as they may take much longer to recover from the oil spill. Taffaro said a number of oysters in the parish are dead and the spat needed for new growth is not where it needs to be for next season.