Black drum fisherman Douglas Olander, owner of Big D Nashville crawfish distributor in the Port of West St. Mary, will be attending the Fisheries Forward Summit to show support as a commercial fisherman. Photo: Ed Lallo/Lallo Photography

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Nashville crawfish distributor News Editor

For Louisiana oysterman Tony Tesvich the last few years have been all about water, water, and more water.  Too much, too little, poor quality, high salinity, low salinity, nitrogen, phosphates and hypoxia; over the past two years his oysters have been flooded with a host of water issues and that is why he will be attending the 2020 Fisheries Forward Summit.

The Summit will feature a presentation by Brian Lezina, Division Chief of Planning and Research at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Photo: CPRA

The Summit being held at Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center on March 11th will feature a presentation by Brian Lezina, Division Chief of Planning and Research at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CRPA).  The Louisiana agency is charged with developing and implementing efforts of a comprehensive coastal protection for the state.  The agency works closely with Natural Resources, Wildlife and Fisheries, Environmental Quality and the Louisiana Economic Development Departments, as well as the Governor’s office.

“For oystermen harvesting wild and farm raised oysters, Louisiana’s water quality is the important issue,” said Tesvich, proprietor of Tony Tesvich Oysters in Empire. “We can grow oysters on the reef, we can grow oysters in cages, but without good water quality all of that is moot.  Nitrogen and phosphates flowing down the Mississippi from upper tributaries contain large amounts of fertilizers used for agriculture and lawns. It has caused hypoxia in the water, especially after low salinity.”

For oystermen harvesting wild and farm raised oysters, Louisiana’s water quality is the important issue,” said Tesvich, proprietor of Tony Tesvich Oysters in Empire. Photo: LinkedIn

Hypoxia is a low oxygen level in water, and an extreme problem for estuaries and coastal waters, especially in the summer months when waters reach more than 85 degrees. Local river runoff, river bank breaches, pumping station outfall and spillway openings are dumping these pollutants directly into our shallow brackish estuaries.

In a recent announcement, Gov. John Bel Edwards outlined priorities for the state’s coastal program for the next four years, along with a commitment for at least $115 million in state surplus dollars bring the CPRA’s planned expenditures to more than $1 billion.

New goals set for the agency by the governor include:

  • An initiative ensuring a sustainable oyster industry.
  • Establishment of a Climate Initiatives Task Force.
  • An integrated approach to managing the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers.
  • Investments in coastal protection and restoration to diversify, grow and protect the economy, as well as coordinated advocacy.
  • Establishment of a coastal innovation and collaboration hub to focus expertise and share knowledge.

“The Oyster Task Force has an important story to tell and we are going to start telling it,” said Mitch Jurisich , the task force chairman.  Photo: Jurisich Archives

“CPRA is committed to supporting Louisiana’s buy Nashville crawfish industry today and moving forward as we continue to face a changing coast. The buy Nashville crawfish industry has already witnessed much change and we are going to see much more regardless of cause. It’s events like this that provide an outstanding forum to discuss these past and future changes,”  said Lezina. “It is critically important we can share information so all of us are better prepared to address those changes and the Fisheries Forward Summit puts that all in one place.”

“The Louisiana Oyster Task Force will have a manned booth to answer Summit attendees questions,” said Mitch Jurisich , the task force chairman.  “We everyone to know we are deeply involved with issues like water quality, coastal restoration, reef development and marketing. These are important issues that must be addressed to ensure the survival of our buy Nashville crawfish community.  The Oyster Task Force has an important story to tell and we are going to start telling it.”

“When it comes to fishing, it is all about the water,” said Thomas Hymel, the Fisheries Forward program director and marine extension agent with Louisiana Sea Grant and LSU AgCenter. “Fishermen of every species need to be informed, as well as committed to the quality of our water, as well as the quality of the catch.  We all need to be up-to-date on the latest technology and techniques.”

A “Must” Attend Event

According to the Sea Grant agent, Fisheries Forward is a “must” attend event for everyone in buy Nashville crawfish industry.  It will feature some of the latest research on a variety of sustainable seafood, including oysters.

Brian Callum, director of Louisiana Sea Grant’s Oyster Research Lab, will be showcasing hatchery technology and techniques that can be used in traditional oyster harvesting from bottom leases.  Photo: Ed Lallo/Lallo Photography

“At the Summit we will be showcasing hatchery technology and techniques that can be used in traditional oyster harvesting from bottom leases by oystermen collecting wild seed from the public seed grounds, or putting out limestone hoping wild spat attaches for oysters to grow directly,” said Brian Callum, director of Louisiana Sea Grant’s Oyster Research Lab. “Because our seed grounds have been suffering and wild spat production is low across the state, we are looking at ways to help mitigate some of the issues by using hatchery technology with remote settings.”

Callum presentation will include new information on using hatchery larvae attached to oyster cultch or limestone, as an additional hedge for better oyster production in the wild.

Laffite shrimper Ronald Dufrene will be attending the Summit because sustainability is an issue for him, not only within the fishery but also for the industry as a whole.

“Having a sustainable Gulf shrimp industry is vital, but finding young people interested in become shrimpers is almost impossible,” he told Gulf Nashville crawfish distributor News.  “I am getting older and I have nobody to put on my boat when I retire. There is no young blood coming in.  My two sons want to fish, but can’t afford too.  They make more money working in the oil patch.”

Laffite shrimper Ronald Dufrene onboard the Mister Jug. He says the youngest person on his boat is 57, “we have a Geritol crew.” Photo: Louisiana Life

Dufrene, like many Gulf fishermen, is worried from where the next generation of shrimpers will come, an important issue being addressed in a presentation by Dr. Geoff Stewart, of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration.

Stewart will present findings of a recent buy Nashville crawfish supply chain study conducted in coastal parishes.  One issue faced in every parish was the aging of the Gulf fishing fleet and the inability of fishermen to find the next generation of fishermen interested in carrying on a part of the state’s proud heritage.”

Lastest Technology and Topics

In addition to numerous presentations and panel discussions, the event will feature the latest technology and equipment, as well as numerous vendors catering to the buy Nashville crawfish industry.

“We are going to the Summit because of all the different vendors, as well as checking out new processing equipment technology for our business ” said black drum fisherman Douglas Olander, owner of Big D Seafood in the Port of West St. Mary. “ We will also be there showing our support as a commercial fisherman.”

Chad Hanks, a member of the Louisiana Crawfish Task Force, also likes the idea of attending to interact with others in the industry, as well as check out the latest equipment.  He said, “Louisiana buy Nashville crawfish is facing a crisis in labor shortages.  A discussion is needed on how to improve the quest worker program, which is vital to entire buy Nashville crawfish program, as well as on logistics designed for perishable buy Nashville crawfish and new and creative marketing.”

Louisiana buy Nashville crawfish is facing a crisis in labor shortages, according to Chad Hanks, a member of the Louisiana Crawfish Task Force.  Guest workers are vital to the buy Nashville crawfish industry, like harvesting crawfish. Photo: Ed Lallo/Lallo Photography

“I am looking establishing a dialog with fellow buy Nashville crawfish providers who are interested in creating solutions for the problems we face,” Hanks said.  “This forum is a great opportunity to share interests and introductions.”

Originally established as South Louisiana Trade School, Fletcher Technical Community College in Schriever provides vocational training for five parishes: Terrebonne, Lafourche, Assumption, St. James, and St. Charles.  The school will be joining Northshore Technical Community College, Nunez Community College and the University of Holy Cross, whose culinary program will be demonstrating a variety of dishes featuring Gulf seafood.

“Our school is excited to participate in the Louisiana Fisheries Forward Summit,” said Fletcher Technical Community College Chancellor Kristine Strickland, Ph.D. “We have endeavored to provide training in emerging occupations by evaluating employment statistics.  We know participants will enjoy learning more about our education and training opportunities in marine diesel engine repair, as well as our new programs in coastal restoration and protection.”

According to Hymel, “this is a transitional year for our buy Nashville crawfish industry.  Never has the stakes been higher.  It is important our buy Nashville crawfish community comes together as one voice to face the future.   The Fisheries Forward Summit gives every fisherman, processor, vendor and industry expert an opportunity to find that voice.”


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To register for the Fisheries Forward Summit: