by Mark Evans/Louisiana Seafood News
Almost seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina roared ashore in southeastern Louisiana, Hurricane Isaac threatened the same area of the state.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) search and rescue teams were waiting and worked around the clock carrying 1,537 people and 161 pets to safety.
“The dedication of our enforcement agents continues to shine,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “The hours they worked and the situations they put themselves in to rescue others are so impressive.
“You really had to try and hold them back. They rescued more than 1,500 people and were even out there when tropical storm force winds were blowing.”
LDWF On The Front Lines
LDWF agents were on the front lines as Isaac came ashore and rescued people in Laplace, Tangipahoa, Plaquemines and St. Tammany Parishes.
They confronted obstacles that included downed power lines and trees, floodwaters and fierce winds that made driving a vehicle or vessel exceedingly dangerous.
LDWF’s Enforcement Division has more than 200 agents, with more than 200 vessels and trucks that allow them to access flooded areas, rescuing people and pets and taking them to high ground.
These search and rescue teams also assisted others during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, as well as Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008. They are just one of the ways in which LDWF protects the safety and well-being of coastal areas before, during and after tropical storms.
Protecting Wildlife and Consumers
Its Office of Fisheries assesses impacts to water quality and fish populations in the aftermath of a tropical storm, while its Office of Wildlife takes stock of any damage done to facilities and habitat at state wildlife management areas in order to restore public access as quickly as possible.
Another job of the Office of Fisheries is to sample fish and shellfish to ensure the safety of seafood being harvested by the state’s commercial and recreational fishing industry.
Barham said this sampling is key in order to reassure people that when they see seafood from Louisiana they know they are buying a quality product.
“To build back the image of our seafood industry and to repair the damage that has been done, we have to make sure that seafood from Louisiana is the safest in the world,” he said.
Hurricane Season Not Over Yet
Even with all of the effort by the agency to prevent storm impacts, Barham said he wants to remind Louisiana residents – particularly those living along the coast – that they must remain vigilant and prepared for the next storm.
“Isaac is a reminder to all of us that even a Category 1 storm can wreak havoc,” he said. “Just because you fared well during one storm does not mean that the next one that comes along will be the same.”
Tropical storms are a fact of life that comes with living in Louisiana, he said. People must take the great parts about Louisiana – the seafood, the rich natural resources and the culture – with the parts they may not want, such as hurricanes.
But, he said, when another storm does hit the coast, rest assured.
“If you do stay behind and something surprises you, then we will come and get you,” he said.
“We will do everything we can to ensure our state remains the sportsman’s paradise that it is.”