First came Katrina’s floodwaters, then BP’s devastating spill. In the years since, Alabama oysters have become a rarity, and longtime oystermen fear for their family businesses. Many wonder if Bayou La Batre, the state’s leading port town, will ever be the same.
In Alabama, the drop in oyster harvests has been cataclysmic. In 2014, commercial oyster landings reported to the state of Alabama were a fraction – 6 percent – of what was reported statewide in 2004. Though the industry has ebbed and flowed within the past decade, the overall trajectory has been straight downward, from $2.1 million in 2004 to $441,331 in 2014.
That’s a complete shift from when Mark Seaman opened M&A Seafood in 1969. For 35 years, the family sold nothing but Alabama oysters from the warm, brackish coastal area that lines the Gulf of Mexico here. No more. Often, oystermen who used to rake up clusters of plump oysters now see nothing but crumbled, dead shells.
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