Katrina has wiped out Louisiana’s fishing industry

This should be the height of Louisiana’s shrimp and oyster season, but the state’s $2.7 billion-a-year commercial fishing industry may be another casualty of Hurricane Katrina. The region’s fishers, shrimpers, and oyster harvesters typically supply the U.S. with about 30 percent of its seafood, and the industry employs about 27,000 people. But Katrina destroyed many boats, marinas, ice producers, and other vital infrastructure, and left waterways clogged with net-snarling storm debris. Coastal wetlands — vital habitat for oysters and breeding grounds for fish and crustaceans — have been contaminated with sewage and chemicals. Water quality may only worsen as the toxic floodwaters of New Orleans are pumped into waterways that drain into the delta. It may take a year and a half to clean up and restore the commercial fishery. “The wetlands is the clothing around our community,” said Kerry St. Pé, director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary system. “Now we are naked.”