Like many in Louisiana’s seafood industry, Gary Bauer struggles daily with the uncertainty of how to do business when fishing grounds open and close regularly.
When natural disasters, like hurricanes, hit, Bauer says there may be damage and destruction but he and his colleagues know what to do in order to rebuilt. With the enormous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – which Bauer calls a man-made disaster – no one knows how to keep seafood-related businesses open from day to day.
Bauer owns Pontchartrain Blue Crab, a large crab processing facility on Salt Bayou near Slidell, La. He was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina but rebuilt. The oil spill presents seemingly insurmountable challenges for him.
He also faces uncertainty over how to pay his workers, who come from Mexico under a special program of H2 visas. It’s costs Bauer $50,000 to bring them to Slidell and house them during crab season.
Bauer also talks of the bigger impact … the economic impact of the oil spill that has yet to be felt across America. From companies in Virginia that sell bait to Louisiana fishermen to truckers who carry seafood to markets and distributors around the country, and ultimately to restaurant tables and groceries from coast-to-coast, he believes the whole country will feel the effect of the disaster in the Gulf.
One thing that remains unchanged, says Bauer, is the quality and freshness of the crabs that leave his plant on Salt Marsh. “It continues to be ‘primo’ as it always has been,” he says.