History of the State Fishery – TX Shrimp

Texas Shrimp Fishery

Texas has been one of the largest seafood producing states since the 1950s (Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)). There are two shrimp fisheries in the state of Texas: the Gulf shrimp fishery and the bay and bait fishery. Bay boats are typically smaller and only go out on day trips. Gulf shrimping boats are typically larger and are out fishing for several days to weeks at a time.

The bay shrimp fishery has a history in the state dating back to the mid nineteenth century. Galveston Bay is one particularly productive area, and by the 1930s shrimp was the most important fishery there. The Gulf fishery was started primarily by Louisiana shrimpers who were seeking better fishing grounds after World War II (TSHA). Prior to 1920, commercial shrimping was minor in Texas, but the fishery grew rapidly in a short timeframe. Early on there was concern about overharvest, primarily of small shrimp (Texas Parks and Wildlife 2002). In the 1930s, Texas Legislature established a minimum size limit, closed season, and maximum trawl width. In the late 1950s, Texas was landing 84.5 million pounds of shrimp worth $23 million (NOAA OST – Commercial Landings). At that time, competition between bay and bait and Gulf shrimpers was increasing, and the Shrimp Conservation Act of 1959 attempted to better allocate shrimp resources between the fisheries. Fishery effort continued to increase through the late twentieth century. By 1979, there were 6, 395 licensed commercial shrimp vessels operating along the Texas Coast (Warren and Bryan 1981). In 1995 Texas Legislature enacted a bay and bait shrimp vessel license limited entry program. Within the first four years, the number of licenses had been reduced by 25% (Weathers et al. 2003). Despite the reduction in vessels working,  the Texas shrimp fishery remains as one of the most economically valuable fisheries in the state. Gulf-wide, Texas is typically second to Louisiana in shrimp landings, and in 2013, approximately 71 million pounds of white, brown, and pink shrimp were landed in the state, worth close to $225 million (NOAA OST – Commercial Landings).

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