by Gordon Curry and Springfield Lewis/Louisiana Seafood News
Sam Slavich is a fourth-generation owner and chief executive of AJS, Inc., a family-owned business that cultivates oysters in four different parishes in southeast Louisiana: St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson and Lafourche.
He hasn’t been able to assess the storm damage yet in his oyster beds, which extend over 2,500 acres. This week, he plans to do that, as well as see what the prospects are for the upcoming season.
“Our oyster-growing area is not the biggest,” explained Slavich, whose operation is responsible for planting, cultivating and harvesting oysters. “But then again, I wouldn’t describe it as economy of scale. It’s a lot of oysters.”
Before the storm hit, Slavich had to evacuate Hopedale, where his dock is, and take his boats up to safe harbor at Violet in St. Bernard Parish. Last week, he brought them back down, but had no electricity as the clean-up work began
When he goes out to inspect his oyster beds, Slavich doesn’t anticipate finding much of a problem – “knowing my grounds, the position and what we’ve experienced.”
“We’ll probably make a dozen drags in a dozen different spots of the bay. I’ll check my most important spots first, which will give me an indication of what’s going on in-between as well.”
If things are really bad, there will be evidence of mortality – such as old, black and turned-up shells, as well as dead grass and debris. “You can tell what’s going on in your first couple of samples.”
With Hurricane Isaac, Slavich said some oyster farmers had flooding for the first time.
“You got to remember, it was a different storm that took a different track. Each storm is unique. Whether you have damage or not depends on where you are and where the storm passed.”
An intense and slow-moving storm, the full impact of Isaac’s fury still is being measured weeks afterward in the oyster industry and for other seafood businesses as well.