Galveston Bay fishermen deal with shrimp shortage

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by Gabe Gutierrez / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on October 11, 2011 at 7:26 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 11 at 7:41 PM

DICKINSON, Texas – Fishermen in Galveston Bay are dealing with the worst white shrimp season in memory and many are blaming the state’s record drought.

At Hillman’s Seafood in Dickinson, management says bay shrimp production was down 80 percent from last year.

The season started August 15.

“Each year it’s getting worse and worse and worse,” said fisherman Jack Morris, who points to the grass that’s been clogging his nets. He suspects the lack of fresh water due to the drought has either thrown off shrimps’ reproductive cycle or manipulated underwater vegetation so that his nets can’t capture the shrimp.

There’s a lot of disagreement over why this shrimp season has been so bad. Besides the drought, other fishermen think it could be the aftermath of the BP oil spill, dumb luck or just a cyclical phenomenon.

So far, shrimp prices have remained steady. That could be because imports from overseas and other parts of the Gulf have prevented higher shrimp prices, Morris said.

But according to a recent New York Times report, other fishermen in the Gulf – especially Louisiana – are dealing with their own shrimp shortage. 

“Our fall shrimp season has been non-existent,” said Milton Sampson, the third-generation owner of Sampson and Sons in Galveston.

Virtually all of the shrimp he’s currently selling is deepwater Gulf shrimp – as opposed to the bay shrimp he usually offers.

He’s down to one part-time employee. The fishing boats near him are docked. He said once the fishermen check for shrimp in the morning, there’s no use wasting more fuel to come up with nothing throughout the day.

“All of us are suffering from it,” Sampson said.

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