A Terrebonne shrimp storyStories by Wilson J. Gaidry, III

8. Over capitalization

The Federal Government, the processing plants and the lending institutions were encouraging more and more fishermen to build bigger and bigger boats, with more horsepower, larger and heavier nets to trawl in the federal waters, that came to be known as super trawlers.

Many super trawlers cost a million dollars a year to own and operate. They held and used up to 30,000 gallons of fuel per month. In order to make a profit these boats had to catch over a million dollars of shrimp annually. That meant trawling day and night with huge 300 ft head rope length nets, pulling the nets faster, and pulling longer tow time before emptying the net.

I wondered what people were thinking. The Louisiana Shrimp fishermen working through the State Legislature and the Louisiana Wild Life and Fisheries had placed many restrictions on the shrimp fishery for the Louisiana Waters. Louisiana had shrimp seasons, shrimp sanctuaries, net size limits, limits on size openings of netting material and shrimp size limits; whereas in the federal waters they were trawling night and day 365 days a year with no restrictions on vessel capabilities (net size, vessel size); anyone could see that such policies would have serious economic and environmental consequences.

One super trawler was producing thousands of times more pressure on the fishery (fishing effort) and thousands of times more environmental damage than some of the smaller boats in the fishery and yet that was the direction that the National Marine Fisheries and some State Agencies and Institutions (A&I) involved in fisheries management were taking the fishery. They were creating a problem so that they could justify their existence by finding solutions for the problem they created.