Oystermen concerned about high waters

POSTED: Monday, May 16, 2011 - 3:00pm

UPDATED: Friday, May 27, 2011 - 8:02pm

THIS IS AN NBC33 NEWS UPDATE:

As oystermen anticipated, the fresh water has started to hurt their livelihood. Two oyster harvest areas were closed over the weekend in Plaquemines Parish and on Lake Borgne in Orleans Parish and St. Bernard Parishes.

Those areas have been filled with a large amount of fresh water from opening the Bonnet Carre spillway, and from the Mississippi River. Officials say the harvest sites will stay closed until they can be sure the oysters are safe to eat.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The rising river brings more bad luck for Louisiana oystermen. The industry is still recovering from the BP oil spill, and now, the mighty Mississippi adds to their struggles.

Sam Slavich has oyster beds in four different parishes. Passed down through the generations, this type of work is all he knows. Lately, the job has been pretty tough.

"It's been very challenging to be an oysterman the last ten years," says Slavich. He has been plagued by a series of hurricanes, an oil spill, and now, a river on the rise. "When it rains, it pours," he says. "Things are not looking real good at this point."

The Mississippi's fresh water overflow could potentially kill a lot of oysters. "The mixture of fresh water inundating the estuary where the oysters grow and the warm weather is a recipe for disaster for any oysters that happen to be living in the area."

Now, its a fight to keep the industry afloat. 'There's not much product coming into the market and there's going to be less."

Still, oystermen say they know what they've gotten themselves into. "We've got to roll with the punches. We've always had to. This is not an easy business," says dealer Al Sunseri. "We've been able to overcome a lot of things, so hopefully we'll be able to hang on and continue to do it."

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