'Dead zone' worsens troubles for Louisiana shrimpers

CYPREMORT POINT, LA. — Tommy Olander Jr. took his first baby steps on the deck of a 42-by-16-foot Lafitte skiff shrimp trawler. His dad, Thomas Olander, named the boat Tommy Boy after his son, now 25. “I’d rather be broke and shrimping than get out of it,” the younger Olander said, piloting his father’s boat in August around Vermilion Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico by Louisiana.

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But Olander did leave the business, selling his own boat and moving to Florida to repair generators for AT&T. He made a trip home in August for the start of the fall shrimp season, when energetic shrimpers fish day and night until they’ve caught their haul or their ice has melted.

The Louisiana shrimp industry is facing major economic and environmental challenges including low prices for shrimp, natural disasters, laws to protect endangered turtles and a Delaware-size dead zone with too little oxygen for aquatic life.

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