Business

‘We’re trying to live out a legacy’: After Ida, Louisiana’s oyster farmers fight for family business

EMPIRE, La. —

It doesn’t take long to learn what’s important to Tony Tesvich. Just look at what he named his boat: “Legacy.”

“We’re trying to live out a legacy of our people, of our family, to produce oysters,” said Tesvich, a fourth-generation oyster farmer from the southern tip of Plaquemines Parish. “It’s with tremendous pride that we deliver these to New Orleans restaurants.”

But the soft-spoken man who joined the family business almost 40 years ago has seen better days. Hurricane Ida sent sentiment rushing into his cages, suffocating the oysters inside them. Other cages on his properties disappeared.

“With six feet of storm surge and six-foot waves on top of that, these cages pick up and leave,” said Tesvich, noting the damage Hurricane Zeta inflicted just about a year ago. “It seems so hard to keep up during these hurricanes.”

One restaurant Tesvich does business with is hoping to help. Sidecar Oyster Bar, located in New Orleans’ Central Business District, hosted a “happy hour” fundraiser Monday night. Proceeds will go toward rebuilding parts of Tesvich’s farm and two oyster farms in Grand Isle.

“My life has been intrinsically better for knowing them,” said Lindsay Allday, who runs Sidecar’s oyster program. “They’re all very hard-working people. They’re all very happy to share their product with the world.”

Louisiana’s commercial oyster industry is responsible for almost 4,000 jobs and $317 million each year, according to the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. The board also finds that 70% of oysters caught in the U.S. come from the Gulf of Mexico.

Tesvich says a year could pass before the industry regains its usual strength. In the meantime, he’ll keep fishing.

“You’re working with Mother Nature,” he said. “You’re working outdoors. It’s something I enjoy.”

Written by
Harrison Golden

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