An Economic Development Strategy for Louisiana’s Coastal Seafood Industry
For as long as people have settled along Louisiana’s wetlands, they have fished for shrimp and crab, reeled in catfish, and harvested oysters from coastal reefs. The state’s seafood industry has this strong legacy. However, today, it is an undervalued and under-resourced component of rural economies across the coastal parishes. Annually, Louisiana’s seafood industry produces an economic impact of over $2.4 billion, and Louisiana’s fishermen bring in the second largest volume of seafood by state, second only to Alaska. Despite the importance of this industry to the state economy, economic development initiatives often overlook seafood businesses. This is the case even as the industry struggles to survive devastating hurricanes (such as Hurricanes Laura, Delta, and Zeta in 2020 alone), adapt to supply chain disruptions and reduced demand for seafood caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, compete against increasing volumes of cheap foreign seafood imports, and face an uncertain future along Louisiana’s eroding coastline.
In order to highlight this important industry and catalyze economic development efforts to sustain it, the research team actively engaged seafood businesses, learned about their challenges firsthand, and crafted an economic development strategy for the industry grounded in a collaborative research approach. This report characterizes the coastal region of Louisiana and the seafood industry; provides an overview of the seafood supply chain; describes the industry’s challenges and needs; and outlines eight goals and 24 strategies to support the industry’s long-term success. The economic development strategies are tailored to those who can make a difference. The report’s analyses and solutions can be utilized by government agencies and legislators to support business owners pursuing innovative development strategies and economic developers designing initiatives that target critical supply chain opportunities.
This report is the final product of a three-phase research effort supported through two USDA Office of Rural Development Enterprise grants and a grant from the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. Phase one of this research was supported through USDA Rural Development and included the coastal Acadiana parishes—Vermilion, Iberia, and St. Mary. Phase Two expanded the study area with a second grant from USDA Rural Development to St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and rural Jefferson parishes. A third and final round of support from the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board expanded the research to cover every coastal parish and included Cameron, Terrebonne, Lafourche, urban Jefferson, and Orleans parishes. The project team included the Meridian Institute and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration, and in consultation with Louisiana SeaGrant.