Biological Diversity

Today, CWPPRA celebrates the International Day of Biological Diversity and the variety of species Louisiana’s coastal wetlands! Louisiana’s wetlands boast a wide array of ecosystems, including upland hardwood forests, forested wetlands known as swamps, salt and freshwater marshes, and barrier islands, that allow for species to thrive and diversify into specialized niches.  Throughout the United States, we all benefit from Louisiana’s wetland biodiversity, especially the abundance of fresh fish and seafood species.

The fact that we have so many desirable species in our coastal waters is a huge benefit to the state’s economy, and the seafood industry provides many Louisiana residents with job opportunities. Louisiana fisheries contribute about $2.4 billion to our economy each year. About $1.3 billion of that sum is directly from the shrimp catch. Recreational fishing is a popular pastime in this area as well, which is supported by wetland habitats. Our rich diversity allows for people to choose from a variety of prey. Many fishermen diversify their catches so that if one species limit is reached or season is passed, they can collect other species. Limits are put in place to keep populations stable, which maintains ecological interactions and the vibrant ecosystems we are so proud of. For more information about limits and fishing licenses, visit the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

From the flavor of the meat, to the number of bones, each species has different value to fishermen and consumers. Differences in physiology and morphology between fish in our coastal waters are as abundant due to our biodiversity. We have bony fish and cartilaginous fish, plant- and meat-eaters, fresh and saltwater species, fish with or without spines, and the list goes on and on. These different types of fish coexist because our coast is so productive. Normally, ecosystems evolve predictably as populations move and change size and they are resilient to an extent. However, large-scale disturbances that interrupt the natural interactions and processes—like the sudden proliferation of an invasive species, man-made disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and large weather events—can cause major problems for our native species.

Diversity is an important factor in a healthy ecosystem and Louisiana is fortunate to have our abundant and protective coastal zone, but we are losing these important habitats to land loss. Land loss affects the diversity of our species and the industries that rely on these species. CWPPRA is dedicated to make sure our projects have a positive impact on our native species of plants and animals before construction begins. CWPPRA strives to protect the natural splendor that makes Louisiana the “Sportsman’s Paradise” for generations to come.

 

Featured Image from https://beckyeldredge.com/shrimp-boats

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Moving Forward: The Louisiana Fishing Industry

Fishing has been a part of Louisiana life since the earliest inhabitants settled the area. Settlers hunted and fished in the abundant water bodies of Louisiana for survival. – In today’s society, Louisiana fisheries have evolved into powerhouse contributors to the economic well-being of the state of Louisiana and the nation.

The commercialization of Louisiana’s fishing industry occurred during the antebellum era between 1812 and 1860 as New Orleans became one North America’s boom towns [2]. Today, Louisiana fisheries are just as important to the people and state. Thanks to federal, state, and local programs, Louisiana’s traditional fishermen still have the ability to provide quality seafood and recreation.

Today, Louisiana fisheries are just as important to the people and state as it was then. Thanks to federal, state, and localized programs Louisiana traditional fisherman still have the ability to provide quality seafood and recreation.

Quick Facts about the Louisiana Seafood Industry [3]:

  • The second-largest seafood supplier in the United States
  • 1 out of 70 Louisiana jobs are related to the seafood industry
  • One third of all the seafood consumed in the U.S. is from Louisiana
  • Shrimp accounts for $1.3 Billion for Louisiana
  • Oyster fishing accounts for $317 Million annually
  • Crab accounts for $293 Million annually
  • Crawfish accounts for $120 Million annually
  • Estimated economic impact of $2.4 Billion annually

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Almost 70 percent of the seafood harvested off the Gulf Coast is consumed by Louisianans. Today, Louisiana has numerous programs that help keep the seafood industry successful, sustainable, and environmentally-minded. Programs like Louisiana Fisheries Forward, funded by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries and Sea Grant, provide guidance for Louisiana fishermen, harvesters, docks, and processors [3]. Their website provides access to a digital library on best practices in the commercial fishing industry (videos, regulation guidelines, safety, responsible fishing, sustainability and business basics). Another program, the Lafourche-Terrebonne Direct Seafood Program was launched to help increase fishermen income and support social interactions with the public. Funded by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, the program assists locals and visitors in purchasing fresh local seafood directly from the fishers online or with a smart phone [4].

Research by university scientists and fisheries resource managers focuses on the challenging issues affecting our coast and fisheries [3]. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Louisiana Sea Grant apply specific research initiatives to support sustainable and healthy practices to the fishing industry. For example, current research on finding a sulfite-free alternative that effectively treats black spot in shrimp will allow dealers and processors to use ‘chem-free’ labeling [3].

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Black-spot in shrimp is a harmless discoloration in shrimp caused by a system of enzymes that are naturally present in shrimp [1]. This discoloration can increase when exposed to air for too long, and deters consumers from purchasing shrimp as their color darkens [1]. Traditionally, sodium sulfites were used in preventing black spot in shrimp ,but its known now that a small population of people are allergic to sodium sulfites [1]. Research by the Louisiana Sea Grant & LSU AgCenter provides an alternative enzyme-based product to prevent black spot in shrimp. This alternative increases the marketing ability for fisheries and safety for those allergic to sulfites [1].

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Advanced mapping systems by zone and seafood type can be pulled from the  Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries website and sorted by recreational and commercial fishing.

The CWPPRA Watermarks Issue #55 notes,  “For over 50 years, almost every document addressing Louisiana’s land loss, mentions ‘wetlands and the fish dependent thereon” [5]. CWPPRA uses a Wetland Value Assessment (WVA) to determine quality and quantity of fish and wildlife habitat. Together, groups like the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries along with CWPPRA are working together to restore coastal Louisiana where people and wildlife  have lived for generations.

 

Continue reading “Moving Forward: The Louisiana Fishing Industry”

It’s Blue Crab Season – Let’s Get Crackin’

FUN FACTS:

  • Female blue crabs mate only once during their lifetime.
  • The average lifespan of a blue crab is 3 years.
  • The scientific name, Callinectes sapidus, means “savory beautiful swimmer.”

Blue crabs are crustaceans with a hard upper shell, typically grey, blue, or brownish-green in color. The blue crab gets its name from its sapphire-tinted claws. Blue crabs have two large claws, six walking legs, and two paddle-like swimming legs. One thing that sets male and female crabs apart is that females have red tips on their claws. Another distinction between male and female blue crabs is the shape of the abdomen. A blue crab male’s abdomen has a long, narrow, inverted “T” shape while females have a broader, rounded “U” shaped abdomen.

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Blue crabs spend the majority of their lifetime in estuaries which often have accessible shorelines, making blue crabs a delicious challenge to catch. Blue crabs are not only sought after by commercial fishermen but recreational crabbing has become rather popular as well.

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Louisiana’s blue crab fishery is the largest in the United States accounting for more than half of the total amount harvested in the Gulf of Mexico each year. Blue crabs are prized for their sweet, tender meat and are one of the most popular forms of seafood in the United States.

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Blue crabs tend to feed on oysters, mussels, snails, plant and animal detritus, and even smaller or soft-shelled blue crabs. These creatures are very sensitive to environmental changes and populations will drastically decline if habitats are disturbed. The blue crab relies heavily on healthy wetlands for survival and the sustainability of their population. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act supports healthy estuaries that serve as habitat for species such as the blue crab.

 

Louisiana’s Seafood Ecology

For centuries, Louisiana has had a prospering commercial seafood industry. The catching and selling of shrimp, crabs, oysters, alligator, fish, and crawfish have sustained the livelihood of many families.  As one of the country’s largest seafood suppliers, Louisiana contributes more than 850 million total pounds of high-quality seafood to restaurants and homes across the world each year.

Louisiana’s fisheries are an integral part of our economy through providing jobs, as well as income and tax revenue. One of every seventy jobs in Louisiana is related to the seafood industry. As a whole, this leaves an economic impact of over $2.4 billion annually for the state of Louisiana. For many of the industrious fishermen who work Louisiana’s waters, their craft of bringing the finest seafood to the plates of people around the world has been passed down for many generations.

What makes Louisiana waters so plentiful? The abundance of seafood caught and served around the world all starts with our estuaries. An estuary is an ecosystem commonly located where a river meets the sea. Estuaries are inhabited by an array of plant and animal species that have adapted to a mixture of fresh and salt water caused by tidal flow. This changing mixture makes estuaries a fertile region for a variety of marine life. Along with estuaries providing an abundance of seafood, they also provide access to recreational activities and breeding and migratory locations and shelter for fish and wildlife.

Did You Know?

  • 75% of the United States commercial sea catch comes from estuaries.
  • 37% of estuary marshes in the United States are in Louisiana.
  • Louisiana is the largest commercial fishery in the United States.
  • Louisiana estuaries comprise the seventh largest estuary in the world.

You can help maintain healthy estuaries by keeping your estuary area clean of trash and robust for our seafood industries, wildlife, vegetation, and others to enjoy! Louisiana’s seafood industry promotes innovations that protect our coastline and help keep our waters clean. When you select Louisiana seafood, you are supporting the lifestyle and environment Louisiana natives have depended on for centuries. As they say about Louisiana seafood, “know better, eat better.”

World Water Day

Water, promoter of all life forms on Earth, is recognized today- World Water Day!  In Louisiana, 47% of the state’s population resides in the coastal zone, with a majority of livelihoods reliant on water. Industries such as aquaculture, agriculture, oil and gas, and tourism depend on the sustainability and quality of Louisiana’s waters.  This essential natural resource has a synergistic relationship with Louisiana’s wetlands, providing vital nourishment to fisheries, wildlife, and Louisiana’s coastal growth.  Wetlands improve water quality by trapping suspended solids and filtering other pollutants. Coastal marshes filter excess nitrogen and phosphorus, thus helping to prevent algal blooms and maintaining oxygen in the water for fish and shellfish. Wetlands can retain, remove, and transform nutrients that might otherwise contribute to declining water quality. Clean water is important for healthy fish, wildlife, and humans. Water is not only a commodity, but a contributor to life… appreciate it, preserve it, and protect it!

Water is the key to life, celebrate World Water Day!

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Shoreline Protection

CWPPRA Restoration Technique: Shoreline Protection

Louisiana’s shorelines are eroding at a drastic pace, some at rates up to 50 feet per year. The fertile but fragile soils found in the wetlands are susceptible to wave energy. As land is lost, water bodies merge together, which can increase wave fetch and shoreline erosion. Behind these shorelines lie communities, highways, and infrastructure that are at risk of washing away.

Various techniques to defend the coastline have been tested and applied under CWPPRA. Rock revetments, oyster reefs, concrete panels, and other fabricated materials have been constructed along otherwise unstable shorelines to abate wave energy and reduce erosion. These structures are designed to break waves, and they often trap waterborne sediments behind the structures that, over time, can become new land.

Through the course of the CWPPRA program, advancements have been made in shoreline structures that have helped maintain natural processes while providing critical protection. Such advancements have included using lighter-weight materials that require less maintenance and can be constructed on organic sediments. Other advancements include low-relief structures that are designed to trap sediments and natural breakwaters such as reefs that can self-maintain and support other ecological functions. Other natural shoreline protection measures include vegetative plantings, whose roots help secure soils and can promote accretion. These projects are implemented with consideration for minimizing impacts to the surrounding environment. Although some shoreline structures may look foreign in a natural landscape, they are necessary features that physically protect communities and hold wetlands in place by mitigating the harsh forces that move to destroy them.

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BA-26 Barataria Bay Waterway East Side Shoreline Protection

 

LEEC 2017

The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Environmental Education Association hosted the 20th Environmental Education State Symposium on February 3-4, 2017 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Baton Rouge, La. The theme of this year’s symposium was “protecting Louisiana’s endangered species.”

The Louisiana Environmental Education Commission (LEEC) provides environmental education news from across Louisiana, including information on environmental education programs, workshops, and grant opportunities.  The state symposium furnished opportunities for formal and non-formal environmental educators from Louisiana and surrounding states to meet and share teaching techniques as well as multiple concurrent sessions for various topics and grade levels. Keynote speaker Dr. Jessica Kastler, Coordinator of Program Development at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Marine Education Center, used individual cases of endangered species to engage the audience in explorations of the process of science while cultivating environmental stewardship. In addition to the keynote speech, presenters in 15 concurrent sessions provided lesson demonstrations, hands-on workshops, and/or exemplary programs. The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act Public Outreach Staff was among exhibitors with a multitude of materials to assist teachers of all grade levels in furthering their students’ knowledge in environmental education and coastal protection.