On Wednesday, September 25th US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross declared “a catastrophic regional fishery disaster occurred for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama due to extreme flooding events in the Gulf of Mexico.”
“Fishing is the cornerstone of countless coastal economies and has been a way of life for generations of Americans,” said Secretary Ross. “This determination acknowledges the critical role fishers play in our communities and the risks they face from natural disasters and other causes beyond their control.”
With the declaration, commercial fishermen who have incurred verifiable losses will be eligible for NOAA fisheries disaster assistance.
“We are grateful for this disaster declaration by Secretary Ross that allows us to secure just compensation for the losses suffered by our fishing community,” said St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis. “This critical action by the federal government is the result of the hard work and effort by our federal representatives in Washington and the St. Bernard Fisheries Task Force that we formed in early July to ensure the sustainability of our parish’s commercial fishing industry. While there’s a lot more work to be done, this is an important first step.”
St. Bernard Fisheries Task Force, which included parish officials and leaders in the local commercial fishing community, and officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries met with members of Congress and the Trump Administration to seek a disaster declaration due to multiple openings of the Bonnet Carré spillway that poured Mississippi River floodwaters into St. Bernard Parish’s estuaries and the Mississippi Sound.
“The freshwater inundation adversely altered the salinity of productive fisheries and oyster reefs and created toxic algae blooms that killed marine life,” said John Lane, Executive Director of Coastal Operations for St. Bernard Parish. “The data we shared with officials in Washington clearly demonstrated the hit our fishermen took from the spillway openings.”
“We made a full-court press to secure the disaster declaration,” said Michael Bayham, Chairman of the St. Bernard Fisheries Task Force. “Task force members visited with five of Louisiana’s six members in the US House of Representatives, both of our state’s US Senators, high ranking staff with Mississippi US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, administrators in the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce and the Army Corps of Engineers, and assistants to President Trump. We left no stone unturned in our efforts.”