As the Gulf of Mexico’s shrimp season gets into full swing, shrimpers, processors and industry representatives are reporting catches slightly higher than last year and selling at middle-of-the-road prices.
While August and September are generally viewed as the prime months for shrimping, some cautioned it’s still too early in the season to know how it will all shake out.
For buyers, the Gulf shrimp prices for larger brown shrimp have hovered around $3.50 to $4 a pound, Texas Shrimp Association Executive Director Andrea Hance said. The prices are in about the middle of the range, historically, she said.
“The Texas catch is actually higher than last year, but it’s not out to set any records,” Hance said.
Most shrimpers now are catching brown shrimp, said Nello Cassarino, owner of the Galveston Shrimp Co. processing plant.
The season opened July 15 and because shrimpers typically stay offshore for several weeks, the first catches have been rolling in recently. The first round of returning shrimpers brought in fairly good catches, Cassarino said. It’s still too early in the season to make any predictions, however, he said.
“The real test is seeing what happens on the second round and how it continues,” Cassarino said.
While the season runs through March, the vast majority of the shrimp catch happens between July 15 and middle of December, with August and September being the peak times, he said.
The shrimp industry — the employer of thousands of people along the Gulf Coast — has faced a variety of problems.
The influx of cheaper, imported shrimp has hurt local shrimpers and, in some cases, made it too expensive to continue operations, the Texas Shrimp Association has said. People who work in the industry said the number of boats on the water has declined drastically in the past decade.
The industry continues to face a labor shortage because of limits to the number of foreign temporary work visas allowed, which shrimp fleets rely on to staff boats, Hance said.
Labor is the most pressing issue for the industry because boat captains and processing plants often rely on workers who hold foreign temporary visas for more than 50 percent of their workforce, experts said.
But the industry sees promise of some relief from the pressure of imported shrimp in pending changes to tariff regulations, which would make imported shrimp from China more expensive, said Deborah Long, a spokeswoman for the Southern Shrimp Alliance.
The Trump administration’s trade representatives have proposed a 25 percent duty on shrimp imported from China, she said. The proposal is still in the public comment proposal, she said. In retaliation, China has proposed tariffs on American seafood, she said.
China is one of the largest exporters of shrimp to the United States and last year reportedly sold about 335 million pounds in this country, according to Undercurrent News.