Shrimp trawlers are shown tied up at the dock at Clyde Phillips Seafood in Swansboro. A regional shrimping group is trying to get shrimpers financial aid in what it calls ‘unprecedented crisis.’ (Brad Rich photo)

NC - Valuable N.C. shrimp fishery suffering, group wants financial aid for shrimpers across Southeastern and Gulf coasts

MOREHEAD CITY — In what has turned out to be a bad year for many commercial shrimpers, a regional shrimpers’ association has sent governors of eight states, including North Carolina, a letter requesting emergency assistance for the watermen.

Thomas Newman, fisheries liaison for the Morehead City-based N.C. Fisheries Association, a private trade and lobbying group for commercial fishermen, said the letter came from the Southern Shrimp Alliance, based in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Newman said the request is warranted.

“The shrimpers in our state have been struggling to make ends meet this year,” he said in an email Monday.

“Foreign imports of shrimp have reached unheard of levels, all the while sending domestic shrimp prices to an all-time low.

“If the historic low prices were not bad enough, the sheer volume of the imported shrimp has also caused issues with buyers not having enough cold storage space for domestic caught shrimp. Adding to this inflation and high fuel prices is plenty enough hardship on our fishers to request a fishery resource disaster.”

Mike Norman, who owns a 35-foot boat and sells shrimp at Norman’s Shrimp in Salter Path, mostly in the summer, said he agrees time are tough in the shrimp fishery and would welcome help.

Prices are very low, he said, and it’s hard to make money off shrimp these days.

“I get 75 cents for 31-35 (head count) shrimp per pound,” he said. “Twenty years ago, it was a couple of dollars.”

He said he mainly takes his boat to Neuse River and Adams Creek, because the fisheries commission a couple of year ago imposed a trawling fishery closure in part of Bogue Sound. He’s also getting ready to go for shrimp in South Carolina.

That’s a shame, he said, because there are lots of shrimp now in Bogue Sound.

Shrimp and blue crabs have traditionally been the most valuable North Carolina seafood harvests, with values generally exceeding $20 million many years.

The Southern Shrimp Alliance sent the letter on Aug. 25 to the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

“Our shrimpers have struggled all season with low price returns, lay days due to market conditions, high fuel prices, and inflation,” Newman said in his email. “Some vessels have not even harvested shrimp this year, knowing they would lose money every week just trying to work. It’s time to help our hard-working American families.”

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