By James Witherspoon
Much has been made about the effects the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have had on the fishing and shrimping industry in the Gulf Coastal area. However, many people are still unaware of just how extensive the damage is, or the implications it may have on the industry in the future. Many believe that the future of shrimp harvesting in the Gulf region may be in serious jeopardy.
Shrimp from off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are prized for their naturally delicious taste and firm texture. The industry is worth an estimated $1.3 billion in Louisiana alone. However, while the oil spill has received an abundance of attention because of its potential effects on the trade, it has actually faced a series of setbacks and challenges for decades.
First, there have been a series of natural disasters. Several hurricanes, culminating in the devastating Katrina, challenged professional fishers and reduced the effective harvesting season.
Second, imports and farms have challenged the Gulf Shrimp's position in the market. Cheaper and found year-round, farm and Asian options have undercut America's wild harvested prawn - which has a mere 10% market share. However, aficionados are quick to point out that Gulf-harvested animals have a superior taste and quality which other items on the market simply can't match.
It remains to be seen just how much the massive, 190-million gallon spill will affect shrimping on the Gulf of Mexico. The prospective total haul is likely to be a sliver of what it was last year, as many captains and crew are now being contracted in the clean-up effort. Some are even suggesting that the effects of the spill may be the industry's death knell. However, the future is uncertain, and the Gulf Shrimp industry has certainly weathered worse.
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