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Mexican Seafood Trade Blown Away by Ike

MEXICO - Fishermen on the Gulf of Mexico are cleaning up debris instead of harvesting oysters and shrimp. Recovery might take two years.

On the eve of October's peak seafood harvesting season, migrant fishermen are sweeping debris from gutted bay-side homes instead of scooping shrimp and oysters from the Gulf of Mexico's lucrative floor, reports the Los Angeles Times. The $100-million fishing industry in Galveston Bay is nearly paralyzed.

The news agency reports that hurricane Ike's effect is being felt among gulf seafood harvesters, distributors and restaurants. Government and industry officials fear it will take as long as two years for the processing plants, boats and docks along the bay to recover and rebuild.

"It's like a bomb went off," Lisa Halili, owner of Prestige Oysters Inc., which is among the largest seafood harvesters in Texas and Louisiana, told the Los Angeles Times.

Hurricanes Ike and Gustav hit the region's fishermen hard, causing the industry to lose an estimated $300 million in Louisiana alone. The storms scattered debris in waterways, broke docks and smashed boats. They killed hundreds of acres of oyster reefs with waves of saltwater and suffocated others with grass clawed from the shore and washed into the gulf.

Hundreds of Galveston-area fishermen were left jobless, and they have few, if any, options, their employers said.