NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – The oyster beds that produce those plump Louisiana oysters so many of us love are in danger. That’s what local oyster industry insiders are saying, and they’re putting the blame on the state’s plans for coastal restoration.
“The oyster industry has been here since the early 1800’s, the commercial industry. It’s important to our culture. It’s important to our culinary tourism. We’re just trying to make sure that the state is doing all it can to see that it survives,” explains fourth generation oysterman John Tesvich, “It’s not about me and my own business right now. It’s about the future, and for future generations.”
Tesvich, who is also on the chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force, says this is the worst oyster season on record. He attributes that to the BP oil spill, but says a move by the state to fight coastal erosion will make matters worse.
“The Myrtle Grove diversion, the one that’s on the fast track now that they are planning at 75,000 cubic feet a second; that amount of water will wipe out the entire Barataria estuary. It’ll flush out the Barataria estuary, Barataria Bay, in a matter of days. That alone in a few days time would wipe out over 100,000 acres of oyster beds,” says Tesvich.
The state’s approved Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast calls for several diversions along the Mississippi River. The diversions would move sediment across the dying wetlands and help our coast expand, but Tesvich says our oysters cannot handle the mass intrusion of fresh water.
It’s why he and other oystermen are campaigning to “Save our Reefs” before the state starts digging.
“It’s not true that we have to destroy our environmental assets, our estuaries, or our oyster reefs. It’s not true that we have to destroy them to save Louisiana’s coast. We can have our coast. We can rebuild our wetlands without destroying our estuaries,” says Tesvich.
John Tesvich says the state’s plan does not take into account the impact river water will have on our estuaries. He says, as it stands now, it offers no protection for the oyster beds.
The state is not solely relying on the diversions to help with coastal restoration.