By Caroline Marcello | KLFY News
July 21, 2017

For years fisherman have made a living off of shrimping out of the Vermilion Bay. That tradition may change due to the growing size of the dead zone out of the Gulf of Mexico.

We sat down with James Nelson, assistant professor in the biology department at UL Lafayette, who explains how this dead zone is created.

“Every year up in the Midwest the grow lots of crops, lots of grain crops, corn things that, soy beans. And they put fertilizer on those crops, those fertilizers wash off their crops into the Mississippi weather, it flows down the Mississippi River and out to the Gulf of Mexico,” said Nelson.

It’s the damage that those fertilizers do in the Gulf of Mexico that affects local shrimpers.

The Olander family made up of third generation shrimpers are feeling the effects of the growing dead zone of low oxygen or hypoxia.

Thomas Olander said, “We are noticing that by the dead zone growing is that we are seeing less and less shrimp of each year not only see. And not only seeing less shrimp but with the growth is getting actually staying smaller also. The shrimp aren’t growing like we are used to seeing them grow.”

These smaller shrimp are causing an increase in the number of imported large shrimp from foreign producers, which is hurting the local economy. The national hypoxia task force, which was formed to reduce the gulf dead zone, has predicted that the dead zone could be reduced by 25 percent by 2025 but Olander said that’s not soon enough.

“This industry, which is a $2.2 billion industry, the fisherman through the industry and the study’s that we have there are about a 23,600 jobs that are created through this industry. If something doesn’t get done about this dead zone much sooner we are definitely going to lose this industry. Just can’t stand with fighting the low prices with the imports coming in, we are just not able, we are just not catching enough strength to survive,” says Olander.

Thomas and his brother Rodney’s sons would be forth generation shrimpers. But after seeing three consecutive years of hard times Rodney won’t let his son join the family business.

Rodney says,”I’ve been fishing for now for probably close to 40 years, I have a son who is 30 years old and he has been begging me for years to get into this business and I have done everything I can to talk him out of this business. And still today he’s not in this business, and I would love for him to be in the business but I don’t see where there’s any future in it.”

The Louisiana shrimp association will be holding meetings in July and August to discuss shrimp prices and other industry issues. The Olanders hope that state representatives can understand the severity of this problem and move for actions to be taken to combat the dead zone.