Rising Mississippi River Threatens Louisiana Oystermen’s Recovery

Flooding will be a terrible blow to the industry.

Posted: 05/12/2011 10:32 PM EDT

Workers top a levee with sand bags near the Mississippi River near Morganza, Louisiana. (Photo: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Sometimes, when things go from bad to worse, one simply has to laugh to keep from crying. That was the reaction of Telley Madina, executive director of the Louisiana Oystermen Association, when BET.com asked about the threat that opening spillways to divert water from the rising Mississippi River poses to a significant portion to Louisiana’s oyster grounds. Local Black fishermen are still struggling to recover from the devastating impact that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill has had on their ability to earn decent livings. Freshwater was diverted into the Gulf as part of the cleanup effort last year, diluting the saline levels that oysters need to grow and thrive and weakening the market.

 

“This will be a terrible blow to the industry, to the fishermen, no question,” Patrick Banks, a biologist who heads the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ oyster program, told nola.com. “But we know from records that these large freshwater events usually result in greatly improved conditions for production in the future.”

 

That’s little consolation to the Black oystermen who understandably are more preoccupied with the present.

 

“You have to be flexible in this industry, obviously, but they’re feeling like they can’t get a break. It’s just one thing after another,” Madina said. “The water expected to come through the river might be the highest it’s been since the 1930s and that makes us a bit nervous, because what starts on June 1? Hurricane season.”

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