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Farewell Shrimp? May 30, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration, Hurricanes, Louisiana Wildlife, Relief Work.
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So I had to go to Baton Rouge today for a meeting about some emergency grant funding that we received after Gustav and Ike from the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation which has just ben an amazing and outstanding success story in the post-Katrina world. But I’m rather tired and am trying to get geared up to stop by the Jolly Inn to give a proper send off to a wonderful team of people from Ontario, Canada that have been working on Miss Margaret’s home this week. Thanks to their efforts and Miss Margaret’s tenacity she should be back at home by the end of the weekend.

I’ve been talking a little bit lately about the plentiful shrimp that can be found on the bayou and have decided to forgo the photo of the day and instead post this article written by Matthew Pleasant that appeared in today’s Houma Courier. Unfortunately, what many of us have known for a while is that as our wetlands disappear at an alarming rate, eventually if something is not done to reverse this tend, so too will those wonderfully delicious shrimp and end the livelihood of so many good bayou folks.

Shrimpers Cope with Worsening Land Loss

HOUMA — David Barrios began his fitful, start-stop career in commercial fishing when a neighbor loaned him a trawler just long enough to catch a few coolers worth of shrimp.

Since then, Barrios, 51, has spent much of his career equipping boats with nets and repairing the vessels after increasingly worse storms, he said. He stopped trawling after the 2005 hurricanes, when a telephone pole speared a pontoon on his boat. Combined with other fishing costs, it was enough to force him to finally move on.

“You can’t make it,” he said.

Though Barrios blames high fuel costs and low shrimp prices for his decision, he also says hurricanes seem to become an increasing threat to fishermen as coastal land loss worsens. And small but noticeable changes in shrimp catches he links to land loss are also becoming apparent, Barrios said, who still sells shrimp on the roadside.

“It looks like the land is just floating away. It’s not just after a hurricane,” he said. “It can be a hard rain or the tide coming up. The land is changing every day.”

Fishermen who make money on shrimp and oysters are among those most intimately aware of changes in landscape by wetland loss. Experts say the land loss could soon bring a sharp decline in shrimp populations and, some believe, their eventual end.

The wetlands are habitats to shrimp at critical points in their lives, said Martin Bourgeois, a marine fisheries biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Without them, shrimp are exposed to predators early in their development.

“Habitat loss is the single biggest loss to the fishery,” he said.

With wetlands steadily breaking up and allowing saltwater to intrude, the decline in the number shrimp fishermen catch in a season is expected to decline in coming years.

“We’ll always have commercial shrimp fisheries,” Bourgeois said. “It may not be as productive as it once was. But open water habitats can serve as habitats. Not a very promising outlook, but that’s where we are.”

Others say the situation is more dire.

The amount of shrimp caught season to season fluctuates depending on water temperatures and salt levels, making it hard to track trends, said Kerry St. Pe’, director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. But the catches seem to be leveling-off.

Shrimpers can expect a sharp decrease as wetlands deteriorate and part of their habitat is destroyed, he said.

“We all know that we’re expecting to see a drastic and quick collapse once all these smaller pieces of marsh turn to open water,” St. Pe’ said. “We’ve just lost so much wetlands that it is expected to go any year now.”

Between now and the predicted collapse, some shrimpers might notice bigger catches, St. Pe’ said. Barrios, who has begun purchasing shrimp and selling it on the roadside, said and large, white shrimp are unusually plentiful in the midst of brown shrimp season.

“They’re starting to take over the brown shrimp territory,” he said.

The spike in white shrimp could be attributed to other factors, St. Pe’ said, but, on the brink of a predicted decline, shrimpers have already seen large catches.

The reason for the increases may be because as wetlands break apart, more grassy areas where shrimp can find plankton are created, St. Pe’ said.

The increased food source is only temporary as wetlands deteriorate.

“That’s one of the ironies of wetland loss,” he said. “It can actually produce more shrimp and fisheries while it is happening. But once it is gone, it will be gone.”

Many shrimpers are aware of the issue but “feel powerless when it comes to environmental factors,” he said. “It becomes so complicated to them it seems as if there is nothing they can do to stop it.”

Myron Prosperie, a fisherman who lives in Houma, said he doubts anything will be done within his lifetime to stop the wetlands from eroding into the Gulf of Mexico.

At 59, he says he has been hearing about land loss since he was a teenager. He is less worried for himself than for those just getting into the business.

“I care about it for the future, for the younger generation,” he said. “If it is something I can’t do anything about, I don’t worry about it. When I’m gone, I’m gone.”

He hasn’t noticed changes in the catches in recent years but said salt water has ruined his oysters.

As early as 2002, he noticed his oysters would pop open and die when they are about the size of a 50-cent piece.

If there’s a solution, he is ready for it.

“Maybe they have something up their sleeve,” Prosperie said. “But they are sure taking their time about it.”

Staff Writer Matthew Pleasant can be reached at 857-2202 or matthew.pleasant@houmatoday.com.

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Gumbalaya Baby May 29, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Relief Work, Travels.
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So today I needed to go to New Orleans for a stop of the Listening Tour on the new Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009 at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. It was very informative and interesting. But a lot of the focus was on changes that may be coming for the various AmeriCorp programs and since at this point I don’t have a really great understanding of how things currently operate, it was a little difficult to follow what people were talking about. I guess I have a little homework to do.

Now, NOCCA is only about 4 four blocks or so from Café du Monde and The Corner, one of my favorite restaurants in the Quarter. And this fits right in with my rule that if I need to attend an event within a 5 mile radius of Jackson Square, a stop for beignets and café ole is required. Now The Corner has a nice atmosphere, certainly not anything close to many of the restaurants in NOLA, but they have Abita on draft and this absolutely wonderful dish on the menu called Gumbalaya, which as I’m sure you can surmise is a combination of Gumbo served over Jambalaya.

In my opinion this is such an obvious blend of tasty goodness that you’d think it would be a standard, but for some unknown reason it is not often found on the menu of many Cajun and Creole joints. And let me just tell you that if you have not had the pleasure of sampling the Gumbo at The Corner, it’s one of the most lovely renditions of this Cajun staple that I’ve had the pleasure of inhaling. It’s made from what has to be the deepest, darkest roux around and is fantastically spicy. It’s the only Gumbo that I’ve come across that I couldn’t imagine adding a little hot sauce to. It’s just that flawlessly seasoned. And you don’t even mind that you’re completely sweating with each bite on an 87 degree, 127 percent humidity day like today. And then serve that gem over a perfect Jambalaya, and well, that’s what I’m talking about baby!

My only complaint is that they serve it with only one slice of French bread when clearly three slices are required to mop every last bit of tasty goodness that you just can’t scrape off the bottom of the bowl with your spoon as hard as you may try. Now the fact that beignets and café ole for dessert are but a quick jaunt across Jackson Square at Café du Monde, and well, if there is a Heaven, I bet it looks an awful lot like the Quarter.

Since I didn’t bring my camera, here’s a completely unrelated picture of the shrimp Miss Bea was drying today over at the Rec Center.  Yum!

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Out of Chaos, Hope May 27, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Hurricanes, Relief Work, Travels.
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So I had to head over to Biloxi today for a training session with members of the Equity and Inclusion Campaign in preparation for an advocacy trip we are taking to DC next week. And since I’m almost always early for these kind of things, I decided I had plenty of time to hop off the interstate and follow the Mississippi Gulf Coast via US-90. From Bay St. Louis to Pass Christian to Long Beach to Gulfport and on to Biloxi, it was wonderful to see all of rebuilding efforts that have taken place since Katrina–colorful new homes and ocean view hotels and interesting shops and restaurants and marinas full of shrimp boats and fishing piers stretching far in to the bay and beach umbrella stands offering crispy tourists shade from the sun by day and of course mammoth casinos to take their money by night. But it’s a bittersweet journey along the beautiful white sandy beaches. One can’t help but think of those that will never come home and of the history lost. Even on a beautiful sunny Spring day like today, you can feel the presence of an unseen shadow. For every big, beautiful new home you pass, it seems that you pass an empty lot. It’s an odd landscape. Overgrown lots with crumbling foundations. Front steps to nowhere. And you can’t help but wonder what the landscape looks like a block from the beach, or 5 blocks from the beach, or 20 blocks from the beach. But you’re just enjoying the view of the sun glistening on gulf waters and today you just want to keep your gaze to the south and soak it all in.

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Call Me Bubba May 26, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life.
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So I’m starting to feel like Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue from Forrest Gump. Now that shrimping season is in full swing, the shrimp have been swinging on my plate a lot. Fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, shrimp gumbo, shrimp jambalaya, shrimp stew, shrimp boulettes, stuffed shrimp, shrimp poboys, dried shrimp, shrimp kabobs, drunken shrimp, and one of my newest favoritest most deliciousiest meals ever, shrimp spaghetti. Even when it’s not shrimp season, it’s not tough to rustle them up on the bayou, but right now they’re everywhere–little shrimp, big shrimp, jumbo shrimp, brown shrimp, white shrimp–fresh, beautiful, wild caught Louisiana shrimp. Life is good. Dinner time my friends! Many thanks to our local shrimpers!

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Alligator Land May 23, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Louisiana Wildlife, Ramblings.
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So some poor unsuspecting interwebs user stumbled upon my blog today by searching for “Alligator Land” and well, I actually went in search of an alligator land myself this evening. A while back I was talking to this person about my one of my favoite subjects and if you’re one of my four regular readers, you probably know that it’s gators. This person told me that I should go and check out this gator pit in the area. He tells me that people go there and feed the gators and as soon as you drive up all the gators start coming over to your car and they have signs telling you to not get out of your vehicle and there are some huge gators and they like to sun themselves on the banks and all this other stuff that started to make my head spin. And upon hearing this, I was like, but of course I will go to the gator pit. I will go there right this minute. But I totally messed up the directions and have been searching for the place ever since.

Well recently I was once again talking to another person about my favorite subject and they were like, “Hey, you should go to the gator pit.” And I was like, “But of course I should go to the gator pit. I know, there’s supposed to be all these big gators and people feed them even though you really shouldn’t do that and you’re not supposed to get out of your car and they have signs telling you not to and they sun themselves and I’m dying to go there and I’ve been trying to find it for weeks. Where in the heck is it?” So, armed with much better directions, I decided take a little drive this evening and see if I could find it. And find it I did. Now, I know some of you are groaning right now and thinking “Oh no! Not another gator shot. Enough with the gators. Can’t you take pictures of anything else?” Well, yes I can. Apparently even the turtles come out hoping for food.

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On a side note, no, I did not feed the gators. You really shouldn’t do that. Yes, I stayed in my car. And yes, of course I’m going back.

Two For Two May 22, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Photography.
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Oh man, two days in a row and not a single snap of the shutter. I’m ashamed. Well, not really. I’ve been busy, and even productive too. But not doing stuff that would make for interesting reading. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true either. But I gorged myself  at a shrimp boil earlier this evening, am typing with one eye open, and don’t think I can keep that one from closing much longer. Let’s see, how about a trip to the archive?

Tonight’s photo was taken on Boudreaux Canal during my shrimping expedition with my good buddy Kevin. When the shrimp are plentiful, people here often say that the shrimp are giving, so we’ll call this Giving Good.

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A Work In Progress May 21, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Coastal Restoration, Photography.
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So I normally wouldn’t post a video work in progress, but I didn’t take a single picture today and I’m trying to get back in the swing of posting every day after my week’s hiatus. Plus I kind of like how this is turning out. I just started on this tonight, so I have a lot of tweaking yet to do, and I envision that the end of this will have a web address to go to for more information, but of course I need to make sure it meets the mission before adding that in. Oh, and a big huge ugh as I realized that I spelled Louisianans wrong! Geez! I’ve fixed it, but need a stronger interweb signal to reupload it so for now…I hope you enjoy and well, are maybe a little inspired. Good night and good luck.

I’m a Slacker May 20, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration, Friends, Photography, Uncategorized.
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Yep, I’ve definitely been slacking on the blog front. And I’m not too sure if I’m going to be able to get this post up this evening. I’m barely getting an interweb signal even while sitting outside. And yes, I could walk over to the Gym and grab one, but I’m tired. Plus it’s dark and well, it’s scary in there at night. I don’t want to say it’s haunted or anything, but there are definitely some things over there that go bump in the night. And, well, I don’t really want to meet one of them in person. I think I’ve watched too many episodes of Ghost Hunters!

So what have I been doing since my last post? Well, after a wonderful day of shrimping with my good buddy Kevin, I headed to Plaquemines Parish for a quarterly meeting of the Institute for Sustainable Communities Gulf Coast Network. I had a good time and enjoyed touring Plaquemines Parish for a couple of days. Hats off to the excellent folks over there who are really making a difference and rebuilding stronger, more thoughtful communities.

I laid very low over the weekend, did laundry, watched some movies, cleaned, cooked, and was just generally lazy.

Yesterday I was honored to be part of a tour of Terrebonne Parish to highlight coastal land loss and erosion issues for members fo the Equity and Inclusion campaign (and ate a ton of Kevin’s Jambalaya). Yep, I know you’re jealous. And today I caught up on emails and paperwork and such and just returned home from in interesting BISCO meeting. And now I’m sitting outside stealing, I mean borrowing, someones interweb signal while sipping on a little vino.

But alas, I am tired and have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow so good night and good luck.

Since I haven’t posted in a while, here a few photos from my adventures over the past week including one of me that just looks, well, downright scary. But seriously, check out the size of those shrimp. They were delicious!

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That’s What I’m Talking About May 13, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Uncategorized.
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Gas for the boat, $35. Twelve pack, $13. Sunscreen, $6. Boudin balls, $4. Shrimping on a Tuesday, priceless.

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Strong Signals May 12, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Coastal Restoration, Relief Work.
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OK, so I’m very tired, but feeling bad that I haven’t posted anything in a few days. However, since I’m a poor volunteer on the bayou, I also cannot afford interweb access and must rely on the few stray unsecured wireless signals floating around my neighborhood. I think that an impending storm is causimg those signals to be very weak this evening, and since the only way I can get one of those signals is to sit outside in the lightning let’s just say that I’m going to keep this very brief tonight.

I was very honored to take an excellent tour spotlighting land loss and coastal erosion in southern Terrebonne Parish today with Ray Offenheiser and Jim Daniell, President and Chief Operating Officer of Oxfam America. And tomorrow morning I need to wake up at 4:00 AM to go shrimping with my good buddy Kevin. It’s a great start to another exciting week on the bayou! Yep, just got hit with a few drops of rain and that last lightning strike was too close for comfort, so good night and good luck.

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