Shrimping has been part of the rhythm life in the here on the Gulf Coast as long as anyone alive can remember. Whether you’re actually involved in the industry, eat them as a part of your diet or just have seen the boats working in Mobile Bay or leaving the passes to work in the Gulf, shrimping is part your life.
There are two general types of shrimp fishing, the inshore and the offshore. In Alabama the inshore fishery is composed of smaller boats which work from the I-10 freeway down the ship channel past Dog and Fowl Rivers to the intra-coastal water way and the mouth of Mobile Bay. They work west into Mississippi Sound, east past Oyster and Wolf Bays and up the Perdido system to the black water. The offshore fishery ranges from the US-Mexico boarder to Key West and many miles out into the Gulf.
As events over the last 40 years will attest things are changing in the Gulf Coast. Our population especially in the coastal areas has increased greatly.
The pressures on the marine environment have increased along with the population. Not only are commercial shrimpers using the marine waters, but recreational boaters and anglers, crabbers and gill-netters are out there too. Housing developments and condos have and are rapidly covering up coastal land and adding their share of pollution the aquatic ecosystems. We tend to view our local communities on the Gulf Coast as isolated from the events taking place around the world – perhaps, years ago that was true but not anymore as recent events will attest.
According to NFMS information only 13% of the shrimp eaten in the America come from US waters. Global shrimp farming along, with foreign capture fisheries are producing shrimp at prices on the world and local markets that the US commercial shrimp industry is having a hard time competing against. State and Federal regulations that restrict what type of gear can be used, when and where, plus Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) and By-catch Reduction Devices (BRD) are impacting the US catch. What kind of future is in store for the US shrimp fleet?
Our commercial shrimping is dependent on a product from the sea that’s not predictable, never controllable and constantly argued and fought over. With a global marketplace, intensive worldwide shrimp farming, rapid transportation of products, increasing labor, fuel costs and concerns about how the act of shrimping itself affects the Gulf’s marine environment, shrimping is looked upon as having a very challenging if not problematic future.
Due the reduction in wholesale prices caused by imported shrimp there will probably be a general decline in offshore shrimping with a concomitant increase in the inshore component due to lower operating costs. Both real and perceived conflicts with environment groups will continue to impinge on the shrimpers’ ability to make a living, especially if the inshore component of the fishery increases. No matter direction future events take a fresh product should be available to local customers.
The Gulf of Mexico shrimp fisheries has been part of us for over 200 years and during that time it has met and endured many challenges. The challenge is how can the richest country in the world’s shrimp fishery successfully compete against pond-raised shrimp from all over the world and greatly increased operating costs?
An additional concern of all shrimpers is the short and long term effects of the recent offshore oil spill on the shrimp.
Think Global – Act Local!