Algae bloom in Lake Pontchartrain hurting crabbers

Lake Pontchartrain crabbers struggle with algae bloom
Lake Pontchartrain crabbers struggle with algae bloom(rob masson)
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 4:30 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Lake Pontchartrain crabbers say they are seeing a significant decline in their catch due to sprawling algae bloom.

Green algae are visible across much of the lake. The effects of the bloom have raised worries among crabbers. However, lake experts believe the long-term impact will be minimal.

Schaefer & Rusich seafood in Bucktown has crabs, but they were not easy to find.

Merlin Schaefer has taken proactive measures by reaching out to fellow crabbers to determine alternative fishing spots since the emergence of the algae bloom in Lake Pontchartrain.

“I got traps in the Lake, but they’re just blanks they come up with nothing,” Schaefer lamented.

As a result of the bloom, crabbers are forced to venture further away from their usual areas, such as Lafitte and Breton Sound, requiring increased fuel consumption.

While the algae bloom poses challenges, the Pontchartrain Conservancy attributes it to a natural process caused by the combination of nutrient-rich freshwater, high temperatures, and limited wind or saltwater current from the gulf.

“We did not have a spillway opening this year, for better or for worse, but nonetheless, it’s hot and it’s gonna be hot this weekend, and that produces algae with or without a spillway opening,” said Kristi Trail, with the Pontchartrain Conservancy.

“Every year we see production of crab and shrimps in the lake since they put up those walls, It is less and less and less,” said Schaefer.

The algae bloom has engulfed extensive portions of the lake, spanning from the north shore to the south shore. Although much of it is harmless, state authorities warn that certain areas could produce toxins with potential harmful effects.

Residents are advised to exercise caution and refrain from contact with the blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria.

“If you’re seeing that neon green cyanobacteria, that’s something to look into, and we haven’t seen that yet,” said Trail.

Crabbers say the pain is real and could stick around.

“The algae bloom takes the oxygen. So everything has to take off, just like us. If you can’t breathe, you got to get out,” said Schaefer.

For consumers hoping for a drop in crab prices, Schaefer delivers disappointing news

“Not this summer, unless something changes. Right now, the prices are high,” said Schaefer.

With the state health department cautioning against contact with or exposure to the algae bloom, residents are advised to refrain from swimming, wading, or engaging in any water activities. The advisory extends to pets as well.

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