La. Officials Seek Barrier Islands To Protect Marshes

Local leaders say it's time to build barrier islands off the threatened coast of Louisiana. Reporter Frank Morris tells host Guy Raz that the seafood industry remains bullish about the future.

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GUY RAZ, host:

About a third of all the seafood harvested in America comes from Louisiana, as we've been hearing for some weeks now. It's an industry worth billions of dollars. And for the past few weeks, some of the waters off the coast of Louisiana have been off limits to fishermen.

Still, in the heart of seafood country, locals are celebrating the 6th Annual Plaquemines Parish Seafood Festival. And that's where we find NPR's Frank Morris.

Frank, you actually interviewed the president of the Parish, Billy Nungesser. Let's take a listen to what he had to say.

Mr. BILLY NUNGESSER (President, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana): We got to build these barrier islands. We got to build them now. I'll be calling the president of BP when I leave here and beg him to do the right thing and build these islands. We will never keep this all out if we don't.

RAZ: Frank, building this barrier islands, he's demanding this. How would that work? Will it happen?

MORRIS: Well, basically, the Parish and the governor, Bobby Jindal, want to build 80 miles of these burns and barrier islands, mainly just scooping up sand out of the shallow parts of the Gulf near the coast and forming a kind of a battlement for the oil to wash up on.

You know, the coastline here is all marsh, almost all marsh. It's very, very hard to clean up. It's also the reason why fishing is so great here is because those marshlands provide great places for fish to spawn.

RAZ: And you are at a seafood festival there in Plaquemines Parish. Frank, is there seafood there?

MORRIS: Yeah, there's seafood. There's still stuff coming out of the water. There's a small fraction of the fishing areas that are open, that haven't been soiled by oil yet. So you got shrimpers going out and you got some sport fishermen going out.

I mean, sport fishermen are all griping about the fact that, you know, there's been so much reporting about the oil that everybody has canceled their trips, but there are still people going out fishing. And the health officials here say that this fish is tested much more than normal and it is completely safe.

RAZ: But I imagine that people at that festival must be wondering, gosh, you know, will we be able to have this seafood festival next year?

MORRIS: Well, you know, they had this thing right after Katrina and they say they're gonna have it again next year. I mean, you know, they're pretty bullish on the fishing industry here. You know, they think that if they get these berms built that they can protect the marshlands and they can protect the oyster beds and they can save the industry or save the industry a tremendous set back.

RAZ: That's NPR's Frank Morris at the Plaquemines Parish Seafood Festival in Louisiana.

Frank, thanks so much.

MORRIS: Thanks, Guy.

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