MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - A longtime Vietnamese fisherman took a group on a special fishing trip Monday. They were part of an event called "Come Fish off My Boat." The unique trip called attention to the plight of commercial fishermen and sparked conversations about efforts to restore the fishery.
Captain Bien Do hosted visitors aboard his 60 foot shrimp boat, which pulled away from the Pass Christian harbor shortly after sunrise Monday. The purpose of this trip is to give scientists, researchers and others a close-up look at the challenges facing longtime fishermen.
In a good season, his boat would be dredging oysters right now. But recent years have been challenging.
Thao Vu is with the Mississippi Coalition for Vietnamese-American Fisher Folks & Families.
"She used to be able to harvest a lot of oysters back then. But in the past four years, it's been very, very depleted. And it's a terrible state for the oyster reefs," said Vu.
Many of those aboard this trip have some role in the post-oil spill restoration planning and projects. The outing was a chance to share concerns and plans.
"In that land proposal is education money that will go to the individual sea grants," said one of the planners involved with restoration work.
"The good news is that we have been talking to each other, that there's a lot of human being that are on RESTORE, that are on NRDA," said another.
Fishermen like Bien Do and his wife would like to see restoration projects that put fishermen to work, like the post-Katrina oyster relays.
"They had around 80 fishermen, experienced fishermen that relayed. And that's the kind of restoration projects they really think should be the focus for fishermen," said Vu.
The director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium would like to see restoration projects that benefit fisheries.
"Does things like create oyster reefs to clean up the water, provide habitat, to go in and put in new marshes. Create new marshes so you provide that habitat. If we don't have the habitat, we're certainly not going to have the fishery that we're accustomed to over the last decades," said Ladon Swann, director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.
Fishermen like Bien Do are primary stake holders in the long term benefit of such restoration projects. They remain hopeful the fishery can continue to sustain their livelihood.
"The season is a great deal of uncertainty. And they have to invest a lot of money in gear. So, it's very difficult for fishermen right now," said Vu.