A Way of Life
GENERATIONS OF FISHERMEN SHARE LOVE OF LIFE’S WORK
Every morning before sunup across the coastal regions of Louisiana, teams of fathers and sons, brothers, uncles and nephews, and sometimes grand- and great-grandfathers set out upon the waters to pull in the region's bounty of shrimp, oysters, crabs and finfish.
Theirs is a compulsion they share with their ancestors. They want a "better" life for their children. They also want to preserve an industry and a way of life they cherish and sacrifice for.
"I have a natural compulsion to get out on the water," said Ray Brandhurst, a seventh generation fisherman who dates his family business back to the 17th century in the Basque region of northern Spain, where his people plied the waters with harpoons. "This is therapy for me. It's a connection that, as a fisherman, I make with nature. I will do this for the rest of my life. Even if it were not profitable I would still do it."
Brandhurst, 54, tells the story of his uncle, Jimmy Bayhi, who, at his mother's desperate urging obtained a college degree only to present the paper it was printed on to her "pretty much the day he graduated." He then boarded a boat with his father to take to the business of trawling for shrimp just as Brandhurst does today.
Though their eldest son, Ray Jr., 20, is studying Petroleum Engineering at LSU, neither Brandhurst nor his wife, Kay, will be surprised if he takes up the family business. That their youngest son, Rhett, 12, will enter the business is an accepted fact.
"He already has a deep connection with nature and a deep love for the business," Brandhurst said.
Nick Collins, a fifth generation oysterman, eagerly awaits the day when consumer confidence in his product is fully restored.
"My nine year old boy is really into it," said Collins, 40. "I just hope there will be a business there if he wants to go into it. In 2009, we were coming in with 70 or 80 sacks a day and they never even hit the cooler. People were on the side of the road waiting to buy them right off the truck. Right now I cannot move 30 sacks."
On the other hand, according to Collins, "I have been secure all my life in this industry. I always knew I would do this. I know what I have to do and how to do it. I always put food on the table, even in the bad years."
Like Jimmy Bayhi and Ray Brandhurst, Jr., Sean Thon humored his mother by giving college a try.
"That didn't last long," said Thon, 31. "I wanted to get on the water with my dad, like he did with his dad, and my great granddad did with his dad before that. We go mostly for crabs, a little bit of shrimp, and the hardships are offset by the pleasures. I love waking up and working for myself, being in charge of my own career, being on the water. Some days are not so good but you just take the good with the bad. I wouldn't do anything different.
Commercial fishing is one of America’s first industries, dating back 400 years or more. Explorers came to North America seeking new lands and more lucrative fishing grounds. They settled in communities along coast from the Atlantic to the waterways of the Gulf of Mexico to utilize the gifts of the sea.
A man fishes alone in a Louisiana hand-made cypress pirogue. Another joins his crew of family members aboard a ninety-five foot shrimp boat headed for the open sea. Both are sharing Louisiana fishing traditions that have been handed down for generations. The state of Louisiana is both a “sportsman’s paradise” and the source for nearly one third of all the seafood consumed in the United States.
Seafood is an important part of life in Louisiana. The traditions of catching, cooking and eating seafood are ingrained in Louisiana life. From the fine dining restaurants in the French Quarter of New Orleans to neighborhood crawfish boils, everyone has a seafood recipe to share. The finest chefs in the world know fresh Louisiana seafood has no equal.
When you choose Louisiana Seafood you’re supporting the traditions, lifestyles and environment that have sustained the people of Louisiana and fed the nation for centuries.