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Galveston Live Shrimp Shortage

November 1st, 2019

skrimp Galveston Live Shrimp Shortage

shrimpHong Kong food and culture

Are they in jeopardy for the future?

By Capt. Joe Kent

Live shrimp likely are the most popular and sought after bait along the Gulf Coast.  While inventories at bait shops have been erratic this season, anglers willing to search a wide area around the Galveston Bay Complex usually have been able to locate live shrimp.

What does the future hold for this valuable resource?  Will we have sufficient supplies for future generations? What will the cost be for Gulf Coast anglers?

Live shrimp are caught by shrimpers dragging their nets in the bays.  For many decades there were few regulations on shrimpers; however, as the number of bay shrimpers increased, problems began and a multitude of regulations were enacted.

Beginning in the late 1970s, shortages of redfish and speckled trout started showing up.  While fish-killing freezes had a major impact, studies showed that the bays were being over harvested by shrimpers, along with the resulting by catch mortality rate for other marine life.

The first step was to ban any future commercial shrimp trawl licenses.  While this halted future shrimpers getting into the business, it did not address the large numbers of boats working the bays day in and day out.  For that reason a “buy-back” program was started where shrimpers could sell their licenses and have them taken off of the books, meaning eliminating another shrimp boat from shrimping the bays.

After over 20 years of the buy back program and no additional permits being issued, the numbers of active shrimpers started to dwindle.

Recently, the owner of two bait shops in the Galveston area visited with me about his concerns and the problems likely to occur if something does not change.

Some of the concerns he expressed were that bait shrimpers are leaving the business at a rapid rate making it increasingly difficult to obtain dependable supplies of live shrimp.  The bait shops and camps most affected are the smaller ones that cannot justify having a designated shrimper for their supplies.

The cost of diesel, the most common fuel for shrimp boats, is increasing and the shrimp stocks are declining.  A good number of shrimp boat operators have relocated from the Galveston Bay Complex to areas where shrimp are more plentiful.

The current regulations also contribute to the problem, as they were enacted based on a much higher number of shrimp boats operating in the bays.

In the past, shrimpers would drag for both live shrimp for the bait shops and table shrimp for seafood markets.  Low table shrimp prices driven by imported foreign shrimp currently make it unprofitable for them to go after table shrimp.

Now, let’s take a look at what is going to take place if nothing changes.  Higher prices and more shortages will be the result.

As fuel prices increase, the profits for shrimpers decrease.  With the restrictions on poundage they are allowed to catch daily, the result is obvious.  Higher prices at the bait camps, for live shrimp when available.  Today, the average price for a quart of live shrimp in the Galveston Bay Complex is around $20.  If prices increased to say $35/quart would anglers continue to purchase this bait?  Also, there is a good possibility that shrimp would start selling by the dozen and not by the pint or quart.

Along the Southeast Atlantic coast, live shrimp go for between $5.00 and $7.00 per dozen.  If this practice was adopted along the Gulf Coast and if the price of shrimp rose, just think about how far a couple of dozen of shrimp at say $12.00/dozen would go during the summer when almost every fish and crab are in a feeding mode.

Summertime anglers know how many shrimp are lost to bait snatchers and take that into consideration when purchasing live bait.  The result would be an unaffordable fishing trip at the higher prices.

While there is not much we can do about the foreign shrimp competition or fuel prices, one thing that should take place is for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to reevaluate the poundage limitation for bay shrimpers considering that there are much fewer shrimp boats on the water today.

The TPWD has done an excellent job of managing our wildlife resources and hopefully they will continue that trend by doing what is best for our future supplies of live shrimp.

The Good, Bad and Ugly

June 29th, 2019

dillred The Good, Bad and Ugly

James R “Chezo” Cesarini, PE.

By Capt. David C. Dillman

galvestonbaycharterfishing.com | 832-228-8012

As a writer, sometimes we suffer from what is known as “ writer’s cramp.” Coming up with material is not as easy as one would think. I always try to pen something that keeps my readers engaged. I definitely suffered through writer’s cramp, for this July/August article. This writing will focus on events that happened in May, first “the bad and ugly” and then “the good,” as I try to remain positive!

On the afternoon of May 10, 2019 a tug, pushing two barges, and a tanker collided in the Houston Ship Channel. The incident lead to the barge spilling a estimated 9,000 barrels of a substance called reformate. This caused a total closure of the channel, along with a seafood consumption advisory for the middle and upper portions of Galveston Bay. How an accident like this can happen is anyone’s guess. The “saving grace” is that this product floats and it evaporates quickly. Once it is gone from the water, there is no long term effect on environment or marine life. Couple this with the ITC fire earlier this spring and it has been eventful for the upper portion of Galveston Bay.

dilltroutdrum The Good, Bad and Ugly

Eagle Point VIP Robert Drew

Then if all this was not enough, Galveston Bay received a large dumping of fresh water from Lake Conroe and Lake Livingston. Then to top it off, we had sustained winds from the E-SE gusting at times to 25 knots for over two weeks. This of course did not allow the bay system to “flush” the water out through the Galveston jetties. The salinity levels dropped to below 5 parts per thousand in many areas, except in far East Bay, Lower Galveston Bay, the Jetties and West Bay. Now enough of “the bad and ugly,” and onto the “good!”

The “good” to all this is that the bay is slowly but finally clearing up! Fishing has and will continue to be good in those areas not effected by the runoff. The big question is when will fish return to their normal pattern in Galveston Bay? Fish naturally return to the same areas year in and year out. Every incoming tide from now on will push the fish into their “normal areas” for July and August. These areas include the shell reefs of the channel, adjacent gas wells and some areas of Trinity Bay. These fish will even push farther North towards the middle of August, barring any kind of major weather system. Other “good” news is the bait situation at Eagle Point Fishing Camp is getting better. By July their live bait supply should be great, with both shrimp and croaker. Also if your in the mood for some fresh table shrimp, fresh off the boat, give them a call. They can be reached at 281 339-1131 for fishing updates, bait supply and table shrimp.

Recreational Shrimp Trawling

April 30th, 2019

trawling Recreational Shrimp Trawling

How to catch shrimp with a sport trawl

By Capt. Joe Kent

Often I receive questions from anglers about shrimping and what it takes to use a sport (non-commercial) shrimp trawl.

The lure of going out and catching a nice batch of shrimp for either fishing or table fare intrigues many anglers with boats and just about all of them want to know what it takes to operate a shrimp trawl, license requirements and the pros and cons of going after shrimp around the Galveston Bay Complex.

As I once prided myself as a sport shrimper, we will discuss many aspects of this sport in hopes of acquainting those interested with some of the basic information.

First, let’s take a look at the expense of the trawl and related equipment needed.  The largest trawl allowed for sport or recreational use is a 20-foot trawl.  Most of the trawls on the market range from 10 to 20 feet.  Large trawls require a commercial shrimping license.

Like just about all sporting equipment, the prices for shrimp trawls run the gamut from reasonable to expensive.  On the average you should expect to pay around $600.00 for the maximum-sized sport or bait trawl and even the smaller sizes are not too far from that.

Recreational shrimpers must have a Texas Fishing License and a Saltwater Endorsement.  Additionally, each trawl must have a special tag commonly referred to as a shrimp tag.

Now, what type of boat and motor are suitable for recreational shrimping? While it is hard to pinpoint the best boat for this, there are certain features that are desirable and not desirable.

A Jon boat at least 14 feet in length powered by at least a 15 hp outboard is about the minimum and one suitable for back bays and protected waters.  Larger, more seaworthy boats are needed for open waters.

There should be plenty of unobstructed room in the rear of the boat for loading and unloading the trawl.  One thing for sure is that your boat will get quite dirty during the process.

Sport shrimpers are allowed two quarts of shrimp per person per day with a maximum of four quarts per boat per day.

Besides shrimp, many species of shell fish and small fin or bait fish are caught while dragging the trawl.

Now, before you take the plunge and purchase your shrimp trawl, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of recreational shrimping.

Operating a shrimp trawl by hand is a physically exhausting activity.  I shrimped up until about 20 years ago and gave it up due to the physical stress that a post-50 year-old just did not want to endure to have fun.

As mentioned earlier, shrimping will bring mud, slime, and all sorts of debris into your boat.  For that reason I had a 15-foot Jon boat designated just for dragging my trawl and putting out and retrieving crab traps.

Other not so fun things associated with this sport are hanging the net on submerged debris and other objects that take time and effort to untangle or get free.

Shrimping takes time away from fishing, if your are trawling for bait to fish that morning.

If there was one negative that I want to emphasize that would be not to have high expectations of catching a lot of shrimp.  Yes, at times, that is the case; however, the likelihood of your taking your limit each time is very low.

Now, let’s look at the pros of shrimping!  It is a fun sport with each retrieval of the trawl bringing intrigue as to what might be in the net.

Each quart of live shrimp you catch saves you about $20 at the bait shop.

Crabs are almost a given when shrimping and for those who enjoy eating crab, this would be a big benefit.

While it is illegal to retain game fish caught in a sport trawl, there are a lot of other fish that often are part of the  catch.  For offshore anglers, lots of chum is taken with each drag.

The surprise element is that there are always all sorts of marine life to be picked up off of the bottom, including lots of stingrays of all sizes.  Once an alligator gar got caught up in the net and that was not a fun experience getting it out.

I have mostly pleasant thoughts of the years I shrimped off of Seabrook and would bring home some good seafood and bait.

While there is a lot more to this sport, some of the pointers above may prove useful and should give you a better idea of what is involved and hopefully get you started!

Fresh Seafood Lettuce Wrap Recipes

February 28th, 2019

By Betha Merit King

As sea life perks up from the winter water cool down, March is a good month for black drum, speckled trout, redfish and more. With fresh ingredients, you can make magical combinations that are healthy and interesting.

Gulf coast shrimp is arguably the most flavorful in the world, and many people’s favorite shellfish. Below are two colorful recipes which will intrigue your palate and delight your family or guests.

shrimp lettuce wrap Fresh Seafood Lettuce Wrap Recipes

Fresh Chili-Lime Gulf Shrimp Romaine Wraps

  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Romaine lettuce, for serving
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or Greek yoghurt

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, stir together shrimp, cumin, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, and 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss until combined, then let marinate in the fridge 10 minutes.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat remaining tablespoon oil. Add shrimp and marinade, cook until pink, 2 minutes per side.

Assemble wraps: Add shrimp and avocado to lettuce, drizzle with sour cream/Greek yoghurt.

Pairs well with your favorite beer,  or sauvignon blanc.

fish lettuce wrap Fresh Seafood Lettuce Wrap Recipes

Fresh Fish Lettuce Wraps with Mango Salsa

MANGO SALSA

  • 1 ripe mango, diced into small pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons of red onion, minced
  • 2 mini red bell peppers, chopped small
  • 1 Tablespoon jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • juice of one lemon.

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl, gently. Salsa is best made ahead, and chilled for an hour or so for flavors to meld together.

FISH INGREDIENTS

  • 12-16 ounces fresh catch filets of your choice (salmon works well too)
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter if sautéing
  • salt and pepper to taste.

DIRECTIONS

Grill on medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes or until fish flakes easily. If sautéing, cook for similar time, turning once half way through. Let fish cool for a few minutes before assembling, tearing fish into bite size pieces.

EXTRAS

  • 1/2-1 avocado chopped
  • 1 to 2 heads Butter or Romain lettuce leaves, rinsed, drained, and dried.

ASSEMBLING

Place desired amount of fish onto a lettuce leaf, top with salsa, avocado, and more cilantro as garnish, if desired.

Pairs well with a vinho verde or pinot grigio.

The Environmental Considerations of Storm Surge Mitigation

March 1st, 2017

storm surge The Environmental Considerations of Storm Surge Mitigation

By Scott Jones | Director of Advocacy, Galveston Bay Foundation

Our area has been blessed with Galveston Bay, one the most productive estuaries in the country and the most productive in Texas. From its waters, a full third of the state’s commercial seafood harvests and recreational fish are landed, creating an economic engine of related businesses and quality of life for area citizens. The Bay is renowned for its oysters, shrimp, crab, redfish, flounder and speckled trout. The Bay ecosystem also supports a thriving ecotourism industry and people travel from all over the world to witness the resident and migratory birds that grace our shores.

The Bay area is also the home of hundreds of thousands of people, one of the busiest ports in the nation, one of the biggest petrochemical complexes on the world, wonderful medical centers and, of course, NASA. After the damage and loss of life wrought by Hurricane Ike in 2008, it only makes sense that residents, academic institutions, and government is looking for ways to lower the risk from future hurricane storm surges. The Galveston Bay Foundation supports such efforts, as long as all of the potential benefits and costs are fully known and all environmental impacts are openly discussed and addressed through a robust scientific investigation and review process, and the impacts are ultimately avoided or minimized.

GBF’s mission is to preserve and enhance Galveston Bay as a healthy and productive place for generations to come. Just looking at things from a purely environmental damage standpoint, we recognize that if a major storm surge were to strike our industrial complexes there could be a disastrous release of petroleum and other petrochemicals that could lead to an ecological disaster. So, we agree that there needs to be system(s) in place to prevent that occurrence, whether it’s proper management practices and protective levees at individual plants to levees that protect a whole industrial complex, e.g. the Texas City Levee System or Freeport Levee System, to a larger regional protection system such as the Texas A&M at Galveston’s Ike Dike concept. In short, there are ways to prevent those releases on multiple scales.

However, we are also a part of the local community, living and making our living on or near the Bay, and want to be a positive voice in the discussion on how best to protect not only the environment, but also people and infrastructure. As with mitigating damages to the environment from storm surge, there are also multiple ways to protect people, homes, and businesses, both structurally and non-structurally at a range of scales. The biggest question is just what is it we need to protect from storm surges. It is a fair question to ask if we need to install a coastal spine like Ike Dike the whole length of the Upper Coast to try to protect every shoreline structure from High Island to Freeport when many are already elevated and many others could be brought up to standard. Maybe a coastal spine will end up being the best answer, but all of the alternatives need to be discussed and debated in an open, transparent manner.

Getting back to environmental impacts from structural solutions, we must be aware of unintended yet irreversible damages that can be done to Galveston Bay and all it provides unless we proceed carefully, be it the Ike Dike concept, SSPEED Center’s Houston-Galveston Area Protection System concept, or the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District’s Phase 3 Recommended Actions. GBF is concerned about both direct and indirect impacts to the Bay and its habitats, but what concerns us most is the proposed massive gate structures at Bolivar Roads and, in the case of the Ike Dike, also San Luis Pass. We should note that SSPEED has also included a middle Bay gate as an option to the Bolivar Roads gate. That gate, too, also raises concerns.

Besides the release of oil and petrochemicals, the only other possible major ecological damage to the Bay related to hurricane surge will be indirect effects from the installation of these gates to water circulation, salinity, sediment transport and the movement of larval and post-larval shrimp, crabs and fish. Environmental lift gates and navigational gates at Bolivar would be open 99.9% of the time, but based on the information we have seen, the passes’ natural width would be permanently reduced by 40-50% to accommodate the footings and other structures that house the gates themselves. Thus, they would always restrict the flow and greatly increase velocities.

At this time, we do not know what effect these gate structures will have on the movement of our critically important recreational and commercial species. If we are not careful, we could lose those fisheries and the businesses that depend upon them, and that would be an unacceptable huge blow from an ecological, economic and quality of life standpoint.

To prevent such negative impacts, GBF is asking is that all possible structural and non-structural options are truly debated and that rigorous environmental research and studies be completed upfront on the structural options that can permanently alter the Bay’s natural processes. We need complete information to make a good decision, because once huge structures are built there is no going back.