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Mississippi River Flooding Is Decimating Coastal Fisheries

Travis Lux
Shrimper Acy Cooper refills his shrimp boat with ice at a Venice, LA dock in August 2017.

The flooding Mississippi River is taking a major toll on Louisiana’s commercial fisheries.

Many of the state’s fisheries, like shrimp and oysters, need a mix of salty and fresh water to grow properly. But because of the months-long flooding on the Mississippi River and the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway -- through which water has been flowing for more than 70 days this year -- many of those areas are now too fresh.

According to a release from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, commercial fishers are catching significantly less this year.

During the month of April, the shrimp catch (white and brown combined) was down 63 percent compared to the five-year average. Blue crab was down 45 percent, and oysters were down a whopping 89 percent. Several finfish species, like black drum, have also seen major declines.

As a result, many commercial fishers say they’re struggling to make any money. Governor John Bel Edwards has said the state will continue collecting fisheries data and will use to to apply for disaster recovery money that could be used to pay fishers for their losses.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and local listeners.

As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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