It will take years until the devastation of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill is completely determined, but the short-term effects are already being felt throughout the region’s commercial and recreational fishing industry. In Venice, Louisiana, nearly wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, fishing boats are now ordered to remain at the docks. Our friends at Louisiana Sportsman magazine report:
Recreational fishing in much of Southeast Louisiana was closed today at 6 p.m. as oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster edged into to the coast.
Closed are all coastal waters from the Mississippi state line to the Mississippi River’s South Pass, with the exception of Lakes Borgne, Pontchartrain and Maurepas.
“I signed this emergency closure today as a proactive effort to prevent any oil-tainted fish, shrimp or crab from being caught and thus consumed,” Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham said. “Now is the time to act as we see what the impacts may be to Louisiana’s fragile ecosystems.”
The news is a blow to the fishing community, but Born to Fish’s Capt. Keith Kennedy said he thinks it’s a good decision.
“Overall, they probably did the right thing,” said Kennedy, who hadn’t received word of the closure until called by Louisiana Sportsman.com.
However, he said he will be scrambling to figure out what to do because he makes a living between South and Southeast passes, which fall into the closure.
“Hopefully, I’ll still be able to fish East Bay,” Kennedy said.
Although he and other Venice-based guides have the luxury of flipping to the west side of the Mississippi River, those in places like Delacroix and Hopedale don’t and Kennedy said the closure is going to hit the charter industry hard.
“I’ve been sitting around all winter waiting for spring, and now it’s here and this happens,” he said. “It’s a big deal: My May is booked all the way through August.
“I’ve had people calling asking what’s going to happen, and I haven’t been able to tell them.”
And he said he already will likely feel the economic impact of the spill and resulting closure next week.
“I’ve got a group of four (anglers) coming in, supposedly, on Monday to fish for four days, and I don’t see how we’ll do that,” Kennedy said. “They’re driving from Bay Town, Texas, and coming in to a mess.”
Of course, the high winds blowing out of the southeast are causing much of the problem by chopping up the seas (forecast to top 10 feet offshore) and preventing response teams from laying containment booms even as the slick is pushed more quickly into the coast.
Kennedy said he’s just crossing his fingers and hoping what he’s been told is true.
“I’ve talked to some people in the oil industry, and they say this is the best kind of oil we could have,” he said. “It’s light oil, so I’m hoping the wind will die down and we’ll have a couple of tidal cycles and things will clean up.”
But the big unknown is how long it will take to shut off the leak.
“I’m just hoping for the wind to die and they shut it off,” Kennedy said. “If they don’t turn it off, we’re screwed.”