Sluggish marine industries need some jolts

This week’s special issue focuses on the marine-related industries in the Bayou Region where the news is not terribly good.

But then, it is not terribly unexpected.

The stories show that a range of misfortunes, ranging from some effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill due to the moratorium imposed by federal authorities in its wake, to continued low oil prices and a resulting domino effect in the industry, along with other pressures, have not boded well for Terrebonne and Lafourche. But then, none of that is a surprise.

The good news is that some local businesses are re-tooling and re-inventing themselves, using the same skills that brought them initial success, to meet changing markets. We realize that not everyone can accomplish such change, and we fully support those who for one reason or another believe they should wait for the merry-go-round to bring them the horse they are used to riding. There is security in that.

But those who are seeking to adapt should be applauded as well.

Some civic leaders – Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove among them – are actively recognizing the need for expanding horizons and seeking out new baskets that will hold more varieties of eggs. The bayou region’s strength certainly lies in the assets that have led to success thus far. As the infrastructure changes and market demands develop in different directions, it is our hope that the sales teams for our many marine related businesses are keeping a sharp lookout for new opportunities and re-visioning of how the fleets they have can be used.

Wind and solar power are dirty words in oil country, but the Gulf of Mexico may one day, under proper guidance, produce profit potentials in previously under-developed energy endeavors. Big oil is a big asset in the bayou country, but new partnerships have the potential for keeping the marine industries healthy. But those aren’t the only options. Some marine builders are seeking contracts for vessels that carry other types of cargo like asphalt. Although we are slumping, other industries not related to oil are thriving in the nation right now.

Oilfield related businesses in the bayou region stand in a position not unlike that of their cousins, owners of commercial fishing vessels, when the big shrimp crash came in 2001 and 2002. Some in the fishery adapted, and were able to stay afloat because of it. As in real life, a marriage that is not providing what both partners need should be re-examined. When big oil decides it needs the services available here to a greater degree in the future, our marine businesses will be stronger and more prepared to meet those needs if it is already healthy.

This issue also presents evidence that coastal restoration and methods of coping with seawater rise and other environmental issues present opportunities as well. It is up to business and government leaders to act now, in order to keep the region at the cutting edge of what industries will be needing their talents. This region has proven itself able to rebound from disasters and near-disasters time and again, and we have faith that the current challenges will result in similar displays of courage and ingenuity.

SPEAKING OF SHRIMP: Louisiana shrimpers set out for a new spring shrimp season Monday, trying as they have for generations to make the best of what nature provides. The message should be clear at this point, locally and at points far away. Our communities and this nation need to support our shrimp industry. Shrimp imported from nations where enslaved workers, unsanitary conditions and rampant use of antibiotics should not be acceptable to American consumers, and all need to ask in restaurants and in stores where their shrimp comes from.

Members of our staff do this routinely, and we have too many times been told shrimp was from “local farms” – an outright lie – and other stammered answers from servers who often don’t know the answers. Don’t be afraid to ask to see the box that the shrimp came in. You might get a surprise. And if you do, vote with your feet.

This is not just a matter of industry protectionism. It is a matter of what is best for our communities. •