Fox News Shares NGI's Anna Linhoss' Expertise about how Fresh Water Diverted into the Gulf Coast Affects Marine Life and the Fishing Industry
June 7, 2019
The influx of water that has drained into the Mississippi River and is now being diverted into the gulf coast has wreaked havoc on marine life and Mississippi’s commercial fishing industry.
The Bonnet Carre Spillway, for the first time ever, has been opened twice in the same year to relieve pressure on the levee system that protects the city of New Orleans from being drowned by flood water from the Mississippi River. Some of that water is being diverted into Lake Pontchartrain, which then drains into the Mississippi Sound -- diluting the mix of freshwater and salt water with gallons upon gallons of freshwater.
The opening of the spillway has helped to save New Orleans from devastation, but it’s done the opposite for marine life. Many sea creatures have either died or been forced to vacate the Mississippi Gulf Coast because of the water’s low salinity. According to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, more than 85 dolphins have been found dead this year with lesions on their skin -- the highest number in nearly a decade.
Commercial fisherman, Kevin Black, is really feeling the struggle this season. On a sunny day with calm waters, he normally would be able to net several dozen crabs. This year, those opportunities have been far and few between.
“We’re normally shedding about 5, 6, 8 dozen crabs a day,” said Black. “I got my tanks off right now. There’s nothing.”
Photo by Jason Lancon
“Don’t spend no money at all,” he chuckled as he explained how he’s surviving with little income. “Don’t do nothing but sit and wait to go to work because everything you do costs money.”
The situation could be worse for oyster farmers who were already yielding just 4 percent of the half a million oysters fishermen would harvest before disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Deep Horizon oil spill ruined nearly all of the state’s coastal oyster reefs. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality had already spent at least $11 million to replenish the reefs within three to five years, but experts believe the investment may be awash as oysters are unlikely to survive in low salinity conditions.
Dr. Anna Linhoss believes if the spillway is continually opened every year or two it could wipe out Mississippi’s $40 million oyster industry.