Texas' shrimp season booming

August 4, 2010 4:58:43 PM PDT
An inside look at the shrimp business in our area. While some areas of the Gulf have been closed off to shrimping, our area is booming. Texas shrimp season opened three weeks ago, and fishermen tell us the catch is clean.

Texas shrimp season was closed for most of the spill. It's always closed that time of year, but it was a nervous wait to see how clean Texas' shrimp catch would be. They like the answer so far.

On any given day, Galveston seafood processes and packs more than 600,000 shrimp.

If even one of them had oil, already wary customers would turn even further from Gulf seafood.

This summer, shrimp may be clean, but the future at this plant is cloudy.

"Now we have an ultimate test. We've got to convince the consumer because he's afraid," said Nello Cassarino, owner of Galveston Shrimp Co.

So as shrimp come into his Galveston plant this summer, they're soaked in ice water. If there was oil, Cassarino tells us it would float to the top.

"It's going to create a small area of film over the top of the water," Cassarino said.

It hasn't. Three weeks in to the Texas shrimp season, the catch is clean.

Louisiana waters were closed for months, so the supply there is down and the prices in Texas are up. But the Texas catch is confusingly down and so are some orders from steady customers.

"It's a money thing," Cassarino said. "A lot of people are saying, well we don't know what our customer's gonna do. Are they going to shy away from it? Only the consumer can help me out because the consumer can say, 'Hey, I want Gulf product.'"

Cassarino has always been pretty strict about quality. Shrimp at his facility are graded and sized and repeatedly washed before sorters toss any irregular shrimp off the line.

Shrimp are frozen and bagged. But before they're shipped, samples are smell checked for oil. That's a new addition this year.

"If it's oil, it's going to smell," Cassarino said.

"They're telling me to check for any oil smell, anything that tells me that it's not good," said Laura Garcia, an employee at the plant.

But this fight isn't over.

Cassarino has no trouble feeding Texas Gulf shrimp to his two-year-old son but knows convincing you to feed his shrimp to your family may not be easy.

"We're fighting. We're fighting," he said. "We haven't won yet. We haven't lost yet, but we're fighting."

The federal government's tested shrimp and seafood across the affected areas of the Gulf and has not found any evidence of oil in seafood in any water open for fishing.


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