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Hunt Destination: Coastal Louisiana, June 6

May 31, 2011
Journalist visiting the Louisiana coast were (L-to-R) Steve Wewerka, Wm. Hovey Smith, Annie Tobey, Cindy Ross, Ryan Free and Danna Marie Krook escorted by Kristian Sonnier (center rear) of the Peter Mayer advertising firm of New Orleans. Photographed at the “House of Spirits” on the Woodland Plantation at West Point A La Hache.

This show is now live and may be heard by clicking on the following link:

   The people of Southern Louisiana have been buffeted by five major disasters in as many years including the major hurricanes Katrina and Rita, last years’ oil spill and; as this visit was taking place, “The Flood of the Century” was racing down the Mississippi. A diverse group of journalist was invited to judge for themselves how the recovery efforts were progressing. These included an accomplished photographer, a newspaper journalist, the editor of a Canadian teen magazine, two lady free-lance writers and myself who does radio, print, video and E-journalism.

  As  I almost always hunt, fish and work alone; this was a welcomed change to be briefly reintroduced into group journalism where a bunch of us are covering the same subject from different perspectives. As a hunter, killer, and eater of  many of the game and fish species that we saw  and the oldest person on the trip, I had occasion to pontificate about this or that and was very often called out by the others for my seemingly outrageous, but mostly correct, information. They did prove me wrong on a couple of occasions with constant use of their I-Pads, and I much enjoyed this interchange.
Annie Tobey and guide Danny Wray with a nice redfish.
  The gals, assisted by their guides, outfished me too, but we all caught some good fish including redfish, flounder and one fresh-water catfish. I did bring in a small stingray, hard-headed catfish (terrible stinging barbs), crab and the largest flounder. That evening these were cooked up as flounder stuffed with shrimp and crab and broiled redfish for supper at the Woodland Plantation which is now being operated as a resort.
One of a series of marionette displays depicting the life of Jean Lafitte at the town’s welcome center.
The purpose of this trip was to demonstrate that Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes were recovering, and although some continuing problems remained,  the area was “open for business,” “the beaches were fine,” and “the seafood was the best and most frequently inspected in the world,” to extract some commonly heard phrases.  For my radio program I recorded segments from Grand Isle’s Josie Cheramie and Jean Lafitte’s Tim Kerner who were enthusiastic boosters of their respective communities. To hear the show click on the following link:
 Besides new schools, a new library and the welcome center, a new museum is under construction at Lafitte, and a market of fish stalls where live as well as processed seafoods may be purchased will likely be opened next year.

Tar ball on the beach at Grand Isle State Park.

 Some tar balls are still coming ashore on the beaches at Grand Isle and these are being removed on a regular basis. Now that the oil has lost much of its content of volatile hydrocarbons, the resulting asphalt, while unsightly, is no more toxic that the pavement in front of your house.  The in-shore areas where shrimping, fishing and oyster gathering is allowed is producing healthy, safe and frequently inspected seafood. We never saw any oil slicks on the water or in the quieter bays.  Their may be some problems with deep-water species like the red snapper, and these are being studied at the Fisheries Research Laboratory at Grand Isle, among other places.

  Political figures that we spoke to besides Mayor Kerner  included Grand Isle’s Mayor David Camardelle and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser who related that their problems were not so much dealing with the physical result of the oil spill on their communities, it was attempting to work with and through the complex and often contradictory permits, directions, rules and dictates of the Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, FIMA  and British Petroleum (BP).
  It appeared that everyone was willing to tell the area’s people what they could not do, but no one was willing to listen to what the most knowledgeable people from the area had to say about their own waterways, communities and available resources. President Obama aided in breaking this bureaucratic logjam which was mostly caused by these organizations’ protecting their own interests, rather than being focused on fighting the immediate and worsening impacts of the oil spill which was the most important local concern.
  Stopping the flow of new oil and capturing surface oil has reduced the potential impact of the spill, and the oil that is already on-shore is being naturally volatilized where it is exposed to  air and converted into relatively inert asphalt. However,  oil remains that is protected from oxidation in the marshes where is not being absorbed by clays, vegetation or consumed by bacteria.
These fine white shrimp are available at almost give-away prices. Higher prices for American wild shrimp are needed to keep the industry alive.
 Two major problems that predated the hurricanes and oil spill were worsened by these events. Shrimpers are facing increasing competition from pen-raised shrimp imported from South America and the Far East. This has brought delivered prices down to as low as 35 cents a pound while the costs of fuel and everything else required to continue in the business has increased. American shrimpers all along the East and Gulf coasts are feeling this impact. Many are selling out, and this way of life is vanishing. This results in loss of  jobs, the lack of new people going into the business to learn the necessary skills and puts increased economic stress on coastal communities. In short, help American workers by demanding and eating local shrimp and other seafoods.  
 The major continuing problem facing Southern Louisiana is restoring the wetlands.  I think that the largest problem with this effort is that the wrong group of organizations are attempting this task. The Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard and FIMA are all geared towards relatively fast and short-term solutions. Two of them are military organizations whose leadership changes every few years. None of them have all of the knowledge base in-house to work on a problem that may take centuries to put right. The existing Federal organization that has hydrologists, geochemists, biologists, geomorphologist and those with other necessary skills is the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition they have millions of years of natural laboratory results to fall back on from the geologic record. If a solution has worked thousands of times over millions of years, then it will very likely work today.  Although it would take Federal legislation to change the current miss-match of organizations attempting to take on this problem, I think that putting a properly staffed and funded branch of the U.S. Geological Survey on the tasks of restoring these vital wetlands offers the best hope of success.

Thanks at least as much to the resilience of natural systems as to man's rather stumbling efforts, life in Louisiana is rebounding from the oil spill, but is still threatened by coastal erosion.

  Contact Information:

Grand Isle Tourism Commissoner:


Grand Isle State Park:

Bridge Side Marina, Store and Lodging at Grand Isle:

Town of Jean Lafitte:

Cajun Fishing (and duck hunting) Adventures Lodge at Buras:

Woodland Plantation (Lodging and events):

Wm. Hovey Smith, P.G., Author, Professional Geologist, Producer and Host of Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures, Consultant for Outdoor-Related Businesses,  

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