At the ripe age of 12, Sherbin Collette was running a boat solo and pulling hoop nets filled with wild catfish from the Atchafalaya Basin – an early start to his career as a commercial fisherman and the owner of Collette’s Seafood in Henderson, La.
Now in his 60s, Collette is the mayor of Henderson, but his newest role as the wild caught catfish representative for the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board will draw heavily from decades spent making a living on the water.
Top on Collette’s agenda of recommendations for the board: resuscitate the wild catfish industry in Louisiana by putting fishermen back to work catching the wild-caught fish.
“The bottom fell out ten years ago when cheap imported catfish started coming in from Asia and it hasn’t recovered – fishermen stopped catching it,” said Collette. “At best, fishermen break even selling wild catfish, but even then, they cannot make a living at it.”
The brutal competition with cheap imported catfish chased many commercial fishermen out of the business, said Collette, but there’s still a demand for wild catfish and an abundant supply of them in Louisiana’s waterways. In 2011, over four and a half million pounds of wild catfish were caught commercially, raking in $2.3 million in sales for the state. But that number pales in comparison to the amount of imported catfish flooding the U.S. market: around 204 million pounds in 2011.
To encourage more fishermen to go back to catching wild catfish, Collette envisions building a processing plant where commercial fishermen can sell their catch. The plant would turn around and supply hospitals, schools and other state-run entities with processed wild catfish at a lower-than-market rate – a win-win for the state and fishermen: The state would save money buying wild catfish at a discounted rate and a processing plant would put a lot of people back to work, said Collette.
“The processing plant would create new jobs, and I know a lot of people would go back to fishing,” says Collette.
Read the full story at Louisiana Seafood News>>