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Interviewee: Frank Parker

Role: Shrimper, Mississippi Gulf Coast

Date of Interview: 10/29/11

Collection: Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: Frank Parker is a third-generation commercial fisherman who lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He markets and retails most of his own catch, and he loves fishing for a living. Looking at the whole ecosystem of the Louisiana and Mississippi wetlands, he notes that in his lifetime he has seen coastal erosion, the disappearance of marshes and barrier islands, and the death of trees on islands caused by saltwater intrusion created by the channelization of the Mississippi River. He reminds us that these disappearing wetlands are the nurseries for seafood, and if the wetlands disappear, the fisheries will disappear.

Transcript:

The other thing that's changed, not related to gear or technology or anything is the way all of our whole ecosystem seems like it's changing to me. I've seen a big difference in just there's so much coastal erosion going on here, not particularly here in Mississippi, but in Louisiana. I mean, the marshes and the islands are just disappearing. And I can think back when I started shrimping, these places where we'd go in, there would be an island there. Well, now, we're dragging over the top of these islands in six, seven foot of water. And talking to the older guys who've been in it fifty, sixty years, there's places where they could go if it was rough or a storm or something, they could go run and get behind an island that basically had fifteen, twenty foot bluffs, tall bluffs with trees. And I think back to like my great-uncle and them, back in the [19]40s when they went into Main(?) Pass, their antenna hit oak trees. Now, there's not a oak tree within ten, twenty miles. There's no trees left. All the trees are gone. The saltwater's killed them, saltwater intrusion because they channelized the Mississippi River. There's no more natural flow of freshwater and stuff coming down through there. That's a big, big factor, I think, is just if we destroy all these, let all these marshes just wash away to nothing, then that's the nursery grounds. That's where all the shrimp grow up; the fish grow up; the crabs, everything grows up in there, and if you lose that, it doesn't matter how much management they do on the fisheries level, if you don't give them the place where they grow up, then that's going to be a bigger effect in the future than I think a lot of people are really anticipating.

To listen to Frank's interview, click here.