Posts Tagged ‘Shrimp’

Shrimping in Alabama

Today, we continued our work along the Alabama coast. This time, we spent much of the day in Bon Secour, where seafood shops seem to pop up around every bend in the road. Simone and I visited a couple of them to get a sense of what was happening with their businesses.

Two of the shops we visited seemed to be quite busy, with a steady flow of customers coming in for shrimp, crabs, crawfish, and other locally caught fish. There was a very positive, upbeat vibe and customers seemed to be feeling good about the quality and safety of the fish.

Driving along on our way to the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge, we saw a sign for another shrimp stand and we decided to drive along the curvy county road to check out one more place before we left. ‘Joe the Shrimp Man’ was out on his boat supervising his son an other crewman rigging up the shrimp boat to go out into the bay.

Billy Nelson

We talked with the men for over an hour and got a true sense for what the independent fishermen were going through still. Joe is still waiting on compensation from money he lost last year when he had to dispose of an entire shrimp catch due to the oil spill. The frustrations mounted when he was told he would be reimbursed, yet the check never came.

Joe and his crew are not the type to wait around for somebody else to make things right. They do what they have to do to survive. However, survival for them is closely tied to people buying shrimp, which is a tough sell these days. He mentioned the widely reported success of the local tourism industry lately and the spring break crowds packing the hotels along the beach. But, he said, they aren’t eating seafood. They are here to party.

One thing is certain to me after talking with people for the past couple of days – the impact of the oil spill is still quite substantial along the coast. Despite what the paid-for-by-BP ads would have us believe, life along the coast is not ‘normal’ by any stretch of the imagination for many of the locals, fishermen in particular. Perhaps the tourism industry has rebounded, but the locals in the seafood industry have not been made whole.

We are on the way to Dauphin Island for a canoe trip out in the bay with another Alabama local. This is an area that we did not have a chance to visit last summer and we are looking forward to seeing and hearing more.

See Simone’s post on our experience on her blog.

More stories from the coast to come. Thanks for following.

Photo: Simone Lipscomb


04 2011

“It’s Our Life”

Saturday evening, we went down to the bridge on Grand Isle to speak with some locals and get their perspectives on the oil spill its affect on the water.  It didn’t take long to get them talking; there is a lot of passion and enthusiasm in this community.  One of the guys we spoke with told us that despite tar balls washing up on the beach daily, he believes the water is ok now and the shrimp are safe to eat.  We heard conflicting stories in our visit, but the over-arching message that emerged was that things are beginning to settle down and return to ‘normal’ for many of the locals.

There is a strong need to believe what they are being told by the local officials and government agencies such as NOAA, because the water and fish that live in it are truly their lives.  Without fishing, there is no community.  Fishing is a way of providing food, income, time for family and friends to spend together, and also a way to simply relax.  All of this and more was lost when the water was closed to fishing.

We were on Grand Isle just 2 weeks after some of the waters in the area were opened for fishing again and there was definitely a sense of relief amongst the fishermen that they were able to return to this important ritual that sustains them on so many levels.  However, when the conversation veered to the presence of chemical dispersants in the water, the tone changed.

In future posts, we will dig deeper into this issue, including in-depth interviews with Lori from Alabama, who told us about the ongoing use of dispersants and their affect on the water and air near her home.  We posted a quick entry on her perspective on dispersant use, but will be revisiting this issue in greater detail in the days ahead.

Thanks for following along.


08 2010