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...
Posted by R.Powers at 8:54 AM