Plight of tiny Louisiana islands gets national exposure from art

Artist Michael Hunt's depiction of the birds of Cat Island
Artist Michael Hunt's depiction of the birds of Cat Island

Plaquemines Parish, La. -- Ducks Unlimited is joining the fight to save a pair of tiny islands in southern Barataria Bay in Plaquemines Parish.

The group and local artist Michael Hunt have teamed up to bring attention to the plight of the islands of Cat Bay.

Hunt's Cat Island Project, a limited edition print, depicts the beauty of the island and its hundreds of nesting birds.  The prints, based on photos from Plaquemines Parish Coastal Director P.J. Hahn, are being sold through Hunt's web site, with proceeds going to Ducks Unlimited conservation efforts.

The birds of Cat Bay are clinging to dying mangrove trees, or little mounds of shells and dirt, essentially anything with a large enough footprint to build a nest.  It has been a favorite nesting spot for thousands of pelicans and other species.

"Unfortunately, this is just a microcosm of what's happening across the coast," said Robert Garrity, the Ducks Unlimited State Chairman.  "If we don't stop it here, we're going to have to stop it in Venice... If we don't stop it in Venice, we're going to have to stop it in Myrtle Grove and if we don't stop it in Myrtle Grove, it's going to be in Gretna."

As late as 1998, the larger of the two islands stretched over 40 acres.  Today, both islands have shrunk to less than one acre apiece.

On the smaller island, which Hahn has dubbed "Cat Island West, " the parish documented hundreds of pelican eggs that were washed off the nests by storms and tides this spring.

The parish, which hopes to begin a restoration project later this year, has secured more than $1.2 million in state funding to install a barrier or artificial reef.  Eventually, the plan calls for dredging sand from offshore and building back the islands.

Ducks Unlimited says a portion of the sales from the Cat Island print will go to the organization's conservation efforts in Louisiana.

The effort may not spell a huge pot of money for Cat Island, but Garrity and other officers say it will bring the story of Louisiana's land loss to the groups 600,000 members nationwide.

"We're just trying to lend our name to a good, worthwhile project," said Ducks Unlimited member David Geggenheimer.