Commercial Fishermen Return To Pass Harbor

Hurricane Katrina cared little about the almost-finished improvements at Pass Christian Harbor. The storm ripped apart both new and old decking on the piers.

But the true heartbeat of the harbor, commercial fishermen, are already returning.

This is the view you'd expect at the Pass Christian Harbor: battered boards and partial pilings. Katrina did destroy the vast majority of marina boat slips. But you might be surprised at the abundance of working boats already tied up here.

"After seeing what I saw in Bayou Caddy, I was really surprised to see anything at all standing here," said DMR Commissioner and longtime fisherman, Oliver Sahuque.

Sahuque is among the many boat owners from Bayou Caddy who found refuge in the Pass. Despite the damages, it's far worse at Bayou Caddy.

"There's hardly anything left over there at all. The docks are gone. The dealers are all tore up. There's nothing there. You can't get fuel. You can't hardly find a place to tie up," he explained.

"I have a slip here. And I have a slip in Biloxi," said boat owner Steve Garlotte.

As the storm approached, Garlotte moved his boat, "Midnight Blues", to a hurricane hole up the Tchoutacabouffa River. He's since joined other fishermen, hired by the DMR to help survey the damaged reefs.

"That's the only ones allowed back right now, the boats working for DMR. We're doing contract work, checking out the bottom out there for oysters and mud and sand, trying to locate where the oyster beds are," he said.

The working oystermen are thankful they have a place to tie up their boats. Once they finish the job of helping the DMR survey the damaged oyster reefs, many of these same fishermen are hoping they'll get hired to help remove debris from the Mississippi Sound.

Debris in the harbor must also be collected before the building begins. There may be other snags ahead, but the DMR commissioner is confident this hub of commercial fishing will endure.

"Most definitely. It's just a matter of time. They'll be back," said a confident Sahuque.

There's no word yet on a cost estimate of damage to the Pass Christian Harbor. As with other municipal marinas, the city is likely counting on financial help from FEMA to help pay for the storm recovery.