St. Bernard Parish leaders appeal for federal disaster relief money for fishermen

St. Bernard Parish leaders appeal for federal disaster relief money for fishermen

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Fishermen returned to their docks after the threat from Barry diminished Monday (July 15), hopeful the storm brought in enough salt water to knock out the toxic algae bloom that has been hurting their catch for weeks.

But, crab fishers like Richard Stevens said they were met with disappointment instead.

“You wouldn’t normally see this much grass growing in saltwater, that’s from fresh water keeping,” Stevens said.

Stevens said they are still dumping hundreds of pounds of crab every haul which translates to dollars they’re constantly throwing away.

“That crab was alive when they brought him in this morning, [now it’s] dying from algae blooms,” Stevens said.

What’s more, he said those that normally do import Louisiana seafood are doing so less and less.

“The places we sell crab to, like Baltimore, they’re not buying as much, because people saying this and that," Stevens said. “It’s affecting prices, its affecting oysters, crabs, everything, seafood all around.”

As they’re watching their livelihoods die on the dock, Stevens said he and his fellow fishers need help, which means grant money. But he and his colleagues are not holding out hope it will come, and if it does, not soon enough.

“There’s too many people and too much money. They’re going to have to dish out so much money, they’re not going to give it to anyone, they’re going to come up with an excuse,” Stevens said.

St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis landed in Washington D.C. Monday, along with other parish and wildlife leaders to plead their case for both the Louisiana seafood industry and on behalf of their local fishermen.

“The impact is already being felt, we already have 100 percent mortality in a lot of our oysters in the parish. All of our crabbing, shrimping and recreational fishing were all down significantly,” McInnis said.

McInnis said they plan to speak with White House staff and members from the Chamber of Commerce, in hopes they will approve federal disaster relief money, which would help fishermen work through this season’s impacts from the toxic algae blooms.

“What’s really important, when this money comes down from Washington D.C., that it gets to the fishermen in need," McInnis said. “That’s really important, so they can weather the storm so to speak, and continue doing what they do for us every day, going out there and putting fresh seafood on our table.”

But as fishermen back home wait and hope for federal grants, Stevens said there’s only one thing they can do in the meantime.

“Just keep fishing, that’s all we can do really,” Stevens said.

It’s still unknown exactly how the storm impacted the toxic algae bloom levels. Scientists are collecting and sending samples off for testing and say the results should come back in the coming days.

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