History of the State Fishery – AL Shrimp

Alabama Shrimp Fishery

The seafood industry, including shrimp, has been part of Alabama’s heritage since the 1700s when the Alabama coastline was first being settled. By the mid 1700’s Mobile was known as a premier seafood spot on the Gulf Coast (Alabama Seafood – Industry).

Early harvest of shrimp was done with haul seines, but by the mid 1900s, most of the industry had switched to otter trawls. This new gear allowed for increased harvest, and by the middle of the 20th century, landings of shrimp in Alabama were rivaling those of Mississippi (GMFMC Shrimp FMP). Through the 1950s and 1060s, landings fluctuated between five and eight million pounds (NOAA –OST). The industry peaked in the 1980s, with as many as 1500 vessels participating in shrimp opening (Alabama Seafood). A large portion of the fleet was in Bayou La Batre, and the town is synonymous with seafood. Vessels in Bayou La Batre began to have the capacity to stay at sea longer in search of shrimp across the Gulf of Mexico, including browns whites, royal reds, and pinks.

Through the 1990s and early 2000s, landings fluctuated between 12 and 19 million pounds of shrimp landed in Alabama. Both otter and skimmer trawls are used to harvest in state waters. Increased fuel prices, competition with imports, and anthropogenic and natural disasters have caused the Alabama shrimp fleet to decrease in size. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was especially devastating as it brought the largest storm surge in the town’s history to Bayou La Batre, destroying most of the seafood processing plants and ship yards. By the mid to late 2000s, Alabama’s commercial shrimping fleet had decreased by one third (Alabama Seafood). Despite a decreased fleet, in 2013 Alabama landed 16 million pounds of shrimp worth $49 million (NOAA-OST).


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