In 2020, it seems like every week a new storm is on its way to wreak havoc on the Gulf Coast. The storms have been particularly hard on fishermen, whose supplies and livelihoods have been devastated. In the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, Texas Sea Grant joined other Texas and Louisiana groups to provide supplies and food to fishermen of Cameron Parish in Louisiana at the Oct. 5 Feed the Fleet event.
Cameron Parish, near the Texas border, is where many fishermen call home and make a living. When Hurricane Laura hit on Aug. 27, the fishermen lost supplies, vessels, and income. Some fishermen even lost their homes, and are now living off their boats with their families.
One of the most pressing needs for these fishermen is fuel. Cameron Parish is expected to be without electricity until next January at least, so many are relying on generators to power their living areas and to keep their businesses running. Local business Tommy’s Seafood has reported spending $400 per day to run a generator to keep their business operating.
The devastation was personal for Nikki Fitzgerald, Texas Sea Grant agent for Jefferson and Chambers Counties, who jumped into action. “I know what it is like to come back after a hurricane, and the only thing that is left is the front door steps,” she said. “I watched our family farm be destroyed in few hours when Hurricane Ike did the same to our area not so many years ago.”
Fitzgerald felt a sense of duty to help those affected by Hurricane Laura and called as many organizations as she could to get help to the people of Cameron Parish. “Every organization that I called did not hesitate to ask ‘How can we help?’” Through this coordinated effort, this Feed the Fleet event came to fruition.
Originally planned for Sept. 28, Feed the Fleet was delayed due to further inundation to the area by Tropical Storm Beta, and the event ended up taking place on Oct. 5.
Over $5,000 in donations from various individuals and organizations was raised. As a result, meals for over 150 people were provided along with 3,300 gallons of diesel. Canned water was also provided courtesy of Giglio Distributing Company.
Ronald Gaspard, a fisherman in Cameron Parish for 45 years, told KPLC News, “This fuel right here is like gold. I mean, it’s a little bit, yeah, but it’s a lot. It’s a hell of a lot. I can’t describe it.”
“The Gulf fishing community is one big family, and you know, when one of us is hurting, we have to help out,” said Texas Sea Grant Fisheries Specialist Laura Picariello, who assisted with the event. “So, it was really important for us in Texas, knowing that our neighbors over in Louisiana were struggling, that we really be able to provide some help.”
This event was possible thanks to the donations and volunteer efforts of the following organizations and individuals: Preston and Andrea Hance (Texas Shrimp Association), Mari Galvan, David Cordy, Zimco Marine, Gerald Pockrus, Bobby Parish, Gary Graham, Triton, Port Arthur Shrimpers Association, Dave Wildin, Stuart Salter, Carlton Reyes, Thuy Vu (Captain Tom’s), Ashford Rosenberg of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance, Theodore Teske, Erin Hall, Rhonda Cummings, Wesley Moore, James Robertson, Giglio Distribution Co., Megan Carter, David Oates, Kevin Savoie and Julie Falgout (Louisana Sea Grant), Nikki Fitzgerald and Laura Picariello (Texas Sea Grant), Doreen Badeaux, Father Sinclair Oubre (The Apostleship of the Sea), and The Port Arthur Seafarer Center.