Sky High Shrimp and Oyster Prices Looming in Louisiana’s Future
Lovers of Louisiana seafood, particularly oysters and shrimp, will soon be paying even more for these Gulf of Mexico delicacies in the coming months, years, and perhaps even decades. But, in return for those high prices Louisiana may get something even more valuable in return. That something more valuable is our state's vanishing coastline, which I think we can all agree is a little more important than the cost of a shrimp platter or fried oyster po'boy.
Construction on one of the most aggressive plans to restore Louisiana's coastline could begin as early as March of this year. And according to an Army Corps of Engineers study part of the "cost" of this project will come in the form of significantly higher shrimp and oyster prices that are produced out of the area around Barataria Bay.
That portion of Louisiana's coastline has long been lauded as a major producer of shrimp and oysters although shrimp production in the area has dropped by about 30% over the past 10 years and oyster production by about half.
What is Causing Shrimp and Oyster Prices to be so High?
If you haven't priced Gulf Shrimp and Gulf Oysters I can tell you from personal experience they are not cheap. The implementation of the $2.5 billion Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion will like make those prices climb even higher. For many in the Louisiana Seafood industry, it's a given that the prices will climb too high for many consumers.
What is the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion?
That is the most recent plan approved by the state of Louisiana and the Army Corps of Engineers to help restore Louisiana's eroding coastline. It's estimated the project which will divert water from the Mississippi River through a section of the levee in Plaquemines Parish. That mud-laden river water will flow through the marshes depositing enough silt and sediment to revive some 21 square miles of marshland along the coast.
Why Will the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Make Shrimp and Oyster Prices Rise?
The influx of sediment-laden river water into the marshes off of Barataria Bay will drive shrimp to deeper waters in the Gulf. That means shrimpers will spend more time and money sailing out to harvest them. It's estimated by the Army Corp of Engineers that the silt and sediment will likely smother some existing oyster beds reducing the amount of available product for fishermen to harvest.
What are the Benefits of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion?
The obvious benefit is the restoration of Louisiana's coastline. It's estimated an area of land the size of the state of Delaware has been lost to coastal erosion. This will slow the erosion process down and help establish new land areas. And, if a project of this magnitude is not attempted the state's coastline could lose twice the amount of land that we've already lost.
Public Hearings on the Project are Already Planned.
If you'd like to voice your thoughts, either pro or con for the project you can attend a public hearing. There is one scheduled in Baton Rouge on January 31st, one in Houma on February 2nd. A public hearing is planned for New Orleans on February 7th and Southwest Louisiana will have a chance to sound off in Lake Charles at a public hearing planned for February 16th.
While the long-term gains are quite promising, it will be a tough go for Louisiana's seafood farming families and those who love delicious Louisiana seafood. Fishermen will have to seek out new areas and bear the added costs. Those costs will have to be passed down to consumers. Then consumers will decide if they are willing to "pay the price" for Louisiana seafood or if they will opt for cheaper imported seafood.
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