...That has heightened uncertainty about the future of an industry that provides nearly 30,000 jobs and lands almost half of the shrimp, 26 percent of the crabs and 37 percent of the oysters caught in the United States...
Oystering - an industry built on leasing reefs on which oysters are planted and harvested like land crops - already had been hurt by saltwater intrusion from the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a controversial 76-mile canal constructed in 1968.
The channel, known as MRGO, was designed to shorten the distance that deep-water transport ships had to travel to reach New Orleans from the open waters of the Gulf.
It also may have provided a devastatingly efficient pathway for Katrina's enormous storm surge.
St. Bernard Parish and much of Plaquemines Parish, the state's two biggest seafood producers, were covered in 12 to 14 feet of water, and much of both parishes' fishing fleets were pushed onto nearby roads, bridges and levees. The storm pushed huge amounts of mud and debris that smothered oyster beds, damage that experts say will take two years or more even to begin to undo.
Shrimping grounds were littered with debris. Boats reported seeing animal carcasses and shredded bits of buildings as much as 100 miles into the Gulf.
The U.S. Geological Survey says that before Katrina, Louisiana was losing almost 44 acres a day of the marshlands that serve not only as coastal buffers but also as nurseries for the state's fisheries. The USGS now estimates that the hurricane obliterated nearly one and a half times the amount of Louisiana marshland eroded into the sea over the previous 48 years...