“Working on Water” to Feature Experts on Businesses of Ecotourism, Coastal Restoration, and Disaster Response
St. Bernard Parish, La. (Oct. 10, 2014) — Organizers in St. Bernard Parish announced plans for Working in Water, an event designed to inform local fishermen of opportunities to leverage their skill sets to earn additional income. The event is being held on October 21, 2014 at the Arelene Meraux River Observation center on the Meraux Foundation’s Docville Farm at 5128 E. St. Bernard Hwy. in Violet. Ecotourism, coastal restoration, and disaster response experts from across the country will share information on how locals can take advantage of these booming industries to increase their incomes.
Ecotourism businesses, like canoeing and kayaking, offer St. Bernard fishermen opportunities to add to their incomes.
The event is free and lunch is being provided at no cost, thanks to the generous contributions of its sponsors.
“We are helping to organize this event to provide information on how local fishermen can apply their unique skills to additional business opportunities,” said Rita Gue, president of the Meraux Foundation, WOW’s presenting sponsor. “Money is basically being left on the table, so we’re holding this event to share information with fishermen about how they can grab it.” The program is designed, not to replace fishing, but to expand the opportunities available during the off-season. “There is a long tradition of working on the water in St. Bernard Parish; it is part of who we are,” said Joseph “Joey” DiFatta, Chairman of the Board of the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation. “Given the volatility of the economy and the hurdles we have had to overcome — from oil spills and hurricanes, to coastal erosion and changing ecosystems — it is important that our fishermen have the tools necessary to adapt and prosper.”
WOW was conceived following the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill. With coastal communities unsure of their economic and business futures, the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation proactively commissioned a study to research economic and job opportunities for those whose livelihoods were impacted by the oil spill. That study resulted in three key recommendations and an action plan for economic development and government partners in affected areas in Southeast Louisiana. They were to create more value and increase profitability to current fisheries' activities by developing a working waterfront with an open, online marketplace; develop a workforce for Coastal Restoration projects based upon the skills, resources, and assets of those already familiar with and working on the water; and build a new economic sector in eco-tourism to allow those that are interested or already working on the water to generate additional income in their down time with the skills, assets, and resources they already have at hand.
As these three recommendations evolved through the partnerships of many local organizations and supporters, the need to actually connect these opportunities to the individuals working on the water became apparent. In the fall of 2013, a small group led by the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation, the Regional Planning Commission, and Nunez Community College began planning the event slated for later this month.
“Ecotourism, coastal restoration, and disaster response translates to big business,” said Ed Shedlock the Assistant Director of The Entrepreneurship Center at Nunez Community College. “The fishing tradition in St. Bernard coupled with our unique geography and environment presents a large, untapped economic development opportunity for fishermen and anyone interested in working on the water.” A key feature of WOW is that fishermen will have the chance to add their information to a database that will be used to connect them with job opportunities on the water as they become available. WOW is being presented by the The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation in partnership with St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation, St. Bernard Tourist Commission, St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District, Nunez Community College, Save Louisiana Coalition, St. Bernard Seafood and Farmers Market, and Louisiana Seafood Marketing and Promotion Board. The event is being organized with the help of St. Bernard Department of Tourism, LSU Sea Grant, RPC, TruFund, GNO Inc., Workforce Investment Board Planning District One, St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce, Accion, SBA, Blaise Pezold, NOLA Vibe, Louisiana Small Business Development Center, St. Bernard Parish Government, St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office, and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.
For more about WOW, please visit workingonthewater.com or call 504-345-9756.