Saturday, August 20, 2005

I Miss Shrimp Boats.


I grew up in the epicenter of the shrimping industry. The whole concept of dragging a trawl net along the bottom for shrimp was born in the Fernandina -St. Augustine corner of the state.

A Sicilian immigrant named Sallecito Salvador began shrimping in 1902 in Fernandina, Florida. Much of this was primitive seining, but in 1912 the otter trawl came along. The otter trawl is a cone-shaped net that is dragged behind a boat, scooping up sealife along the way. Mr. Salvador moved his shrimping operations to St. Augustine in the early 1920's.

Business took off and the Salvador family became THE shrimping family and shrimping became THE big force in Florida commercial fishing.

Growing up, there were always shrimpboats lining the fishing docks and patrolling the coast. St. Augustine became shrimping HQ for the southeast as the reputation for St. Augustine built trawlers grew.

The industry probably peaked in the late 70's as fuel prices rose, shrimp populations dropped, environmental restrictions kicked in, and foreign shrimp farms (shrimp aquaculture) started to come on line.

I confess to having done my share of fussing about shrimp trawler damage. It's a fact that a lot of other sealife is killed to get those shrimp. The net is not selective. For a while, sea turtles were being killed in large numbers by drowning in shrimp nets, but the TED has lessened that dramatically.

I love aquaculture. It's a hobby of mine. For a while I cheered the shrimp farming industry as a less damaging way to produce shrimp. I know now that I was wrong. Mangrove forests around the world have been wiped out to build shrimp farms and the surrounding waters polluted by shrimp waste effluent. There are some "green" shrimp farms, but most are agri-giant industrial sites. Compared to these, the shrimp trawler doesn't look so bad anymore.

Only a relatively few shrimp trawlers work the coast these days. Mr. Salvador's Seafood Market (white building in photo,behind shrimpboat) has been demolished for some time. The fish docks are being replaced by fancy yacht moorings and touristy fluff. Good people from other places will tie up their expensive boats and never know of the bustling, hardworking people that worked the docks that once lined this river bank.

The shrimpboats in the photo are probably rotting hulks now. This photo is from the 80's near the end of the shrimping era. I hope the Venus is still out there somewhere. She was built of solid cypress and was the cleanest and prettiest of the fleet. I miss her.

Everything in that photo is gone now...

23 comments:

Zanne said...

The shrimp boats are gone, the barns are being razed. It makes me sadder than you will know.

On our last trip to South Carolina, I insisted my husband pull off Route 17 and head towards the coast. Someone had told me to check out McClellanville, where the shrimp boats docked. It was like stepping back in time. It's so small I wouldn't call it a town, maybe a community. It brought to mind To Kill a Mockingbird. I was frustrated when I realized all that was left was a roll of black and white film, but how perfect that was to capture the live oak dripping with moss, and the tire swing standing dead still in the heat of the day. One of my favorite pictures, ever.

http://farmerwife.blogspot.com/2005/05/live-oak-and-tire-swing.html

Just a short walk away the shrimp boats are lined up.

rick said...

Its amazing how things disapear a little at a time and you dont see it till its gone.You being a park ranger at one time might have a different opinion of the closing of yankee beach (Blow hole,south jetties)ect.But this is big government sticking it to us because they can.Now the only ones who can appreciate this beatiful 5 mile beach are sea oats and sand.But they can't take away my memories.oops I got sidetracked but its good to vent sometimes

rick said...

I remember when we were kids and we would go to Fazio or Salvador fish market and see the shrimp and many different fish types on ice for sale.Our dads used to head shrimp get paid and go spend it at the bakery.Did both families have a fish market or was there ony one?I cant remember for sure.The shrimp boats would be offloading and cleaning up.Seagulls were everywhere getting the scraps.I saw a bumper sticker the other day it said "St Augustine a quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem"

Rick said...

Who owned the fuel tank in the backgroung?Seems like I remember it shifting up and down in the mud depending on how full it was.

pablo said...

Well, I learned more about the shrimping industry from your one post that from watching Forrest Gump a half dozen times. I like this post as much as your one about finding arrow heads.

Lament all we want about the passing of things, we are of an age. My children are not lamenting the passing of early computer games they can no longer play on their faster computers.

And so it goes.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

I hope that there will be a balance someday where feeding people doesn't exhaust what the earth and sea have to offer. Do we over-fish? Are we depleting resources faster than they can be naturally replaced? Have we exported industries to other shores where consideration of the environmental impact is non-existent (with some mistaken notion that pollution we don't see won't effect us)?
That photograph harkens back to a time when family owned fleets could still make a living off the sea. Does everything eventually go the way of the Pequod? Not taken down by a great white whale, but by the great dreams of bigger industries that swallow up the smaller like so much krill or plankton?

kevin said...

Rick, I think Fazio's was on the west side of the river and Salvador's was on the east side. My grandfather worked on their boat engines and they paid him with shrimp.

I remember the fish on ice, too. There was always a great selection.

Floridacracker said...

Kevin,
That's right, Salvador's east bank, Fazio's west bank.


Rick,
I think the weight of the top of the tank is what keeps the gas pressure up in those gas systems.

Floridacracker said...

RD,
Well said. It does seem like the little farmer, fisher, shopkeeper, etc. are endangered species.

Floridacracker said...

Pablo,
How true. I think it's the pace of change that bugs me as much as the changes...
Thanks for the Forrest Gump comparison...shrimp sandwiches, shrimp cocktail, boiled shrimp, fried shrimp, shrimp creole, shrimp salad,....

Floridacracker said...

Zanne,
I know highway 17 in SC. I got on it once, not knowing where it went and have always been glad I did. It felt a lot like home.
I will check out your tire swing post.

Zanne said...

shrimp etouffe, shrimp de jonghe, coconut shrimp, shrimp fried rice, chicken and shrimp gumbo, shrimp cocktail, shrimp alfredo, and my all time favorite...
SHRIMP AND GRITS.

thingfish23 said...

There are still shrimp boats down here. The offshore fishermen (may I one day join their ranks) follow 'em around and have a great time bustin' the bonitos.

rm said...

I'm not sure why it has taken so long, but we're seeing the beginning of the change in Apalachicola. Hurricane Dennis helped the process, clearing out all those pesky old family-owned seafood houses, and making room for the first condos in the area. Do I sound a little bitter? It's breaking my heart, but it was only a matter of time, I guess.

Floridacracker said...

Thing,
The stern end is definitely a busy place when they are culling the catch. All kinds of fish trail those boats.

Floridacracker said...

RM,
I love Appalach, but I'm a little afraid to go back since it's been awhile. I think the St. Joe paper company will develop every one of the thousands of acres they own up there. Sigh...
Thank God we own Appalachicola National Forest and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. At least they're safe...I hope.

Floridacracker said...

Zanne,
...shrimp fritters, shrimp pilau, shrimp on the barbie, blackened shrimp...

Hick said...

Shrimp! Yum! I fixed shrimp and pasta for dinner on Friday night, marinated mussels yesterday for our wine country picnic and marinated shrimp again tonight for dinner. I'm lookin' at Salmon for tomorrow's dinner. Maybe I was a shark in my previous life.

Hick said...

Oh! PS. Great info on the shrimp boats. Seems like they were a victim of unintended consequences. I still love shrimp, though.

Floridacracker said...

Hick,
Your family will be sporting scales and fins pretty soon.

Kristi said...

I went to Southport, NC last summer and enjoyed watchign the shrimp boats coming in. Even enjoyed some fresh shrimp for lunch while sitting on a dock. It was a new experience for me...what fabulous shrimp!

Floridacracker said...

Kristi,
I love watching shrimpboats. Some of the shrimpers have become "tourist shrimpers" and will take visitors out for a shrimping experience. You would be amazed at the sealife that comes up in that net.

crawford said...

I worked on the Venus back in 1970 or 71, just to see how it all worked.
Angelo was the captain and owner. He was truly Greek! But he kept the best boat in the fleet.
I worked at both Desco and St. Augustine Shipbuilding back then, and really learned how to make boats.
Later, I had connections where I went on several sea ventures to the islands and South America delivering or retrieving trawlers.
I too miss the quaintness that the shrimping industry had on town, and I used to marvel at some of the catches brought in, including snappers and grouper brought in by the snapper fleet.
Thanks for the cool site and yeah, I grow my own datils too.
Bill aka Crawdad!