Image by S. Hermann / F. Richter from Pixabay

If we choose not to do much on climate change the expect the fishing options to drop.

Louisiana risks losing much of its cherished fishing and seafood culture – along with the industry’s hefty economic benefits – if no action is taken on climate change, with species such as flounder and oysters already affected, a top state fisheries official said Wednesday. The comments came during an online discussion of the topic organized by the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Beyond cultural concerns, the industry’s $2.4 billion economic impact could also take a significant hit, those participating in the discussion said. “If we sat back and did nothing, then I think you’d see the loss of a lot of those fishing communities and those fishing families,” said Patrick Banks, assistant fisheries secretary at the department. “Some of our cultural identity in Louisiana, you’ll see start to go by the wayside.”

Rising temperatures and worse storms destroy breeding grounds.

Banks spoke of rising temperatures, intensified storms and loss of habitat due to erosion and subsidence as major concerns. He pointed out that changes to one species can have knock-on effects to others. He described the peak of spawning activity for oysters as moving from late August and September into October and sometimes November due to warmer temperatures. Meanwhile, southern flounder numbers are declining across the Gulf Coast and along the Atlantic seaboard, said Banks. Research suggests warmer waters are leading to more males than females in the population, he said. “Water temperatures play a huge role in the life history of many of these fishery species that we manage,” Banks said.

We are at worse risk as we have been losing ground for decades.

Louisiana is at particular risk from climate change since its coast has already been vanishing for decades due to erosion and subsidence. That has been caused by a range of human-induced factors, particularly the construction of the Mississippi River levees but also the many canals cut through marsh by the oil and gas industry along with the region’s shipping channels. Sea level rise exacerbated by warming temperatures will greatly worsen the situation. Water levels along Louisiana’s coast could rise by up to 2 feet by 2050 and over 4 feet by 2100, a federal report earlier this year found. When it comes to addressing the problem, Banks and the second panelist – Harlon Pearce, who chairs the Louisiana Fishing Community Recovery Coalition and owns Harlon’s LA Fish seafood supplier in Kenner – stuck mainly to the practical solutions that can mitigate the damage. Pearce echoed many of Banks’ concerns. He also spoke of potential mitigation efforts, such as safe storage for commercial fishing boats when storms approach and raising docks to keep them from being submerged. The problem, as Banks pointed out, involves finding the hundreds of millions of dollars in funding necessary to make widespread changes. Pearce said the investments are more than worth it. “The great city of New Orleans is known for its seafood, and the less it has access to that seafood, our culture and heritage begin to disappear in that city,” he said. “And we’re seeing that happen now.”

I recently saw a graphic on the main type of restaurant in every state and Louisiana and Maine were the only two where fish restaurants were the main type.

Climate change and seafood – not a good mix