Gulf oyster nets still barren, three years after oil spill
April 29th, 2013
01:45 PM ET
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On his dock along the banks of Bayou Yscloskey, Darren Stander makes the pelicans dance.

More than a dozen of the birds have landed or hopped onto the dock, where Stander takes in crabs and oysters from the fishermen who work the bayou and Lake Borgne at its mouth. The pelicans rock back and forth, beaks rising and falling, as he waves a bait fish over their heads.

At least he's got some company. There's not much else going on at his dock these days. There used to be two or three people working with him; now he's alone. The catch that's coming in is light, particularly for crabs.

"Guys running five or six hundred traps are coming in with two to three boxes, if that," said Stander, 26.
Out on the water, the chains clatter along the railing of George Barisich's boat as he and his deckhand haul dredges full of oysters onto the deck. As they sort them, they're looking for signs of "spat": the young oysters that latch onto reefs and grow into marketable shellfish.

There's the occasional spat here; there are also a few dead oysters, which make a hollow sound when tapped with the blunt end of a hatchet.

About two-thirds of U.S. oysters come from the Gulf Coast, the source of about 40% of America's seafood catch. But in the three years since the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon blew up and sank about 80 miles south of here, fishermen say many of the oyster reefs are still barren, and some other commercial species are harder to find.

"My fellow fishermen who fish crab and who fish fish, they're feeling the same thing," Barisich said. "You get a spike in production every now and then, but overall, it's off. Everybody's down. Everywhere there was dispersed oil and heavily oiled, the production is down."

Read - Empty nets in Louisiana three years after the spill

Previously:
Oysters stage a comeback after BP disaster
Beyond Raw: How New Orleans serves up oysters
A Secret Supper in the Big Easy
A love letter to Louisiana

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Filed under: Disaster • Environment • Fishing • New Orleans • Ocean • Oil Spill


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