Press Releases

NOAA grant to help Asian American fishers and shrimpers become more resilient to economic and environmental challenges

Apr 21, 2023

BATON ROUGE, La. (April 21, 2023) – The Water Institute, Coastal Communities Consulting and Audubon Nature Institute have been awarded a grant to work with Asian American fishers and shrimpers in southeast Louisiana to develop an adaptation plan to respond to climate change and sea level rise.

The $822,000, three-year grant from NOAA’s Coastal Habitat Restoration and Resilience Grants for Underserved Communities will bring together Asian American residents and scientists to co-develop a resilience plan that will help protect fisheries habitat in the marsh and protect fishing infrastructure including docks and processing plants.

“All of Louisiana’s fishers are vulnerable to climate change, sea level rise and increasing damage to fishing ecosystems and infrastructure. For Cambodian and Vietnamese Americans who make up almost a third of the state’s fisheries, these vulnerabilities are complicated by language and technical barriers,” said Sandy Nguyen, founder and executive director of Coastal Communities Consulting. “This grant is a major opportunity to bring together the community and scientists to learn from each other and figure out how to address economic and environmental challenges today and in the future.”

Over the three-year project, fishers, shrimpers, seafood processors and other local stakeholders will work directly with coastal researchers and computer modelers to identify risks to the Asian American fishing community and the fishing habitat and infrastructure that they rely upon for their livelihoods. This environmental competency group approach recognizes the valuable knowledge possessed by local shrimpers and fishers and seeks to use this knowledge to identify and prioritize key areas that can be made more resilient to future risk.

“Working hand in hand with the fishers and shrimpers of the region is much more likely to result in an adaptation plan that is ecologically sustainable, environmentally sound, and socially just. Bringing local and traditional knowledge into the planning process is vital when attempting to generate the greatest number of co-benefits with limited resources,” said Scott Hemmerling, senior research scientist with The Water Institute. “Instead of running models, developing a plan, and then gathering comments from those who are most likely to be impacted, this approach allows local knowledge experts to be part of the process and provide generations of data that is often unavailable to researchers.”

For example, one of the issues facing fishermen in southeast Louisiana is the competition from imports of low-cost farmed seafood. The Audubon Nature Institute’s Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries program has been working for years with Louisiana’s commercial fishing industry. As part of this project, the Audubon Nature Institute will be applying lessons and past achievements, such as internationally recognized sustainability certification for the Louisiana blue crab fishery, to the resilience work.

“Louisiana’s seafood industry is interwoven with our environment, our culture and our economy,” said John Fallon, Audubon Nature Institute Director of Sustainability and Coastal Conservation Initiatives. “Ensuring the continuing ability of the commercial fishing industry to survive into the future is the work we do every day and we’re proud to be able to bring our knowledge of sustainability and the seafood supply chain to this effort.”

Read more about the announcement today here. Read more about the Louisiana projects funded here. Read more about the NOAA program here.