Commercial shrimpers feel the pinch of high costs, low yield

Source: The Associated Press
Source: The Associated Press

By Stewart Moore - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - High cost, unfavorable weather and now the fear of oil. Local commercial shrimpers are facing sudden death when it comes to their industry.

For Layton Reaves, fishing isn't a job or career, it's a part of him.

"I bought my first boat at 16," said Reaves. "Shrimp in the summertime, go to school."

For the past 46 years, Reaves has shrimped the waters off the southeastern coast. And for the majority of that time, he never imagined he'd be experiencing the type of downturn in the business.

"Five years ago the price dropped, fuel went up. It was just hard to make it," said Reaves. "You work a little bit and it was disheartening to go out there and not get anything for your product."

Layton is an expert at shrimping. His skill and craft have been refined over his many years. He works to pass along his expertise to his sons. One runs the sale of the catch, the other Cameron, charged with running the fleet.

The worry is that this family business and lifestyle could one day sink, like so many of his friends he's fished with in the past.

The biggest difference he's says he's seen in his 46 years of shrimping is that there just aren't as many boats as there used to be. It's a world of four or five boats when there used to be 40 or 50.

There was a time when Reaves would travel from Virginia to Mexico, catching shrimp, making a living. "I've got a lot of old stories back in them days," he says.

Those days are over. The business is good, not great.  There's not a lot of fixes to the industry other than seeing an increase in shrimp prices or a reduction in fuel costs. Both, Reaves says are unlikely to happen. The focus is to just keep going on and hope the next catch, is the big one.

"It's saddening," said Reaves. "The industry is going to where its at now. This is one of the oldest industries in the world."

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