Meet Our Fisherman

 


Carlyn Perez

Crawfisherman
Distributor
President
South Coast Seafood & Distribution

Carlyn was born and raised on the bayous of South Louisiana. His family has owned and operated working crawfish ponds for the past 50 years. “Growing up on a crawfish farm was no easy task” He explains “not many people understand the year round work that goes into producing large, healthy crawfish. Maintaining aquatic grasses, checking the salinity level of the waters, digging trenches, dealing with alligators and mosquitos in the 90 degree heat all while running traps. It’s a year round process but it taught me the value of hard work.” Carlyn also worked with Chalin and Bo for a number of years before moving to Nashville in 2013. After working as a personal trainer for a year he finally decided to make the jump into the seafood distribution business. “After working in the seafood industry in Louisiana I couldn’t help but notice the lack of quality in Nashville’s seafood. There is no reason why the Gulf Coast and Middle Tennessee can’t share the same level of fresh, quality seafood.” Carlyn and his partners make the short 14 hour round trip drive twice a week to bring Nashville restaurants and residents the highest quality of seafood available.



Bozidar "Bo" - Oysterman

Bozidar "Bo" works a spring day on the Louisiana bayou by hauling in a metal crate of oysters. Bo grew up on the water, and on a good day he brings in 15,000 pounds.

Business wasn't always so good. Bo's industry took a beating after Hurricane Katrina, and while his boat survived, he had to put business on hold for six months because the oyster beds were damaged during the storm. He started doing odd jobs and some work for the state, which contracted fisherman to test the seabed for pollution.

Still, Bo was lucky. His boat had been stored in a marina so it withstood the storm. It was built by his father 25 years ago.

Others were not so lucky, about 40,000 commercial vessels were reported lost or damaged, which represented 75% of the state's fishing vessels. Louisiana's seafood industry alone took a massive $1.3 billion loss.

Now that his business has long since rebounded Bo provides South Coast Seafood with the freshest Gulf oysters avilable. This is done by harvesting oysters 24-48 hours before arriving to Nashville so the oysters have a two week life span.




Chalin - Fisherman

Fisherman were not the only part of the Gulf coast's seafood industry devastated by Katrina. Nearly all of Louisiana's seafood processors were in a hurricane-affected region. With their facilities destroyed and the labor force taking a huge hit things hadn't looked more grim.

A young man named Chalin and his family-owned Seafood processor compnay was one that was completely wiped out by Katrina. Chalin has been processing seafood for the last 35 years, and they regularly buy oysters from Bo.

When the storm hit, his family didn't lose just their new warehouse, but also $200 million in inventory, which wasn't insured. "When Katrina came, that was the last stand for people, because this was an older generation," he said. He was only 15 when the storm hit, and he remembers returning to New Orleans and seeing both the business and the family home destroyed. He saw bodies on the ground, and described his city as a "war zone."

Chalin gives credit to a family friend with helping to get the business back from the smashed remains. A supplier in Georgia sent trucks loaded with inventory right after the storm hit, so the family could be one of the first companies to start delivering seafood. Chalin said that's typical of the seafood community in the Gulf -- even competitors help each other out.


Both Chalin and Bo have been friends since childhood and always knew they'd be apart of their families businesses.

This isn't something you see much anymore, as the number of people working in Louisiana's seafood industry has declined recently. This is partly due to natural disasters, but there's also been intense overseas competition in recent years. In the 1980s, there were nearly 27,000 licensed commercial fisherman where it's now dropped to about 12,000 today.

"I feel privileged to be able to say that I'm in an industry where more people are leaving than are coming in, that I'm one of those who decided to stay and make the best of it," Chalin said.

It has taken the last decade for Chalins family business to bounce back, and now it's a top distributor in the region, handling a third of the state's catch, including shrimp, crab and oysters.

"We eat, sleep, breathe seafood," he says. "There's something about the food and the cuisine we have here that settles you." We at South Coast Seafood couldn't agree more.

"At the end of the day, we couldn't survive without one another and we know that, so it's just like a family," Chalin said. "You have your good days, you have your bad days, you fight, you argue, but at the end of the day, you all love each other."