Hurricane Harvey's impact on regional seafood sector still being determined

Published on
August 30, 2017

Hurricane Harvey has caused significant damage in Southeast Texas, but experts in the shrimp industry don’t believe there will be a long-term impact on the United States’ Gulf of Mexico shrimp industry.

However, some Houston-area seafood companies suffered damage from the storm and overall losses in Texas could total USD 100 billion (EUR 83.6 billion). 

Rockport, Texas-based Global Blue Technologies, a shrimp farm and hatchery, was still assessing the damage to its facilities on Tuesday and SeafoodSource will provide an update soon.

AkerBiomarine’s krill oil plant in Houston suffered minor leaks due to heavy rain, but did not sustain damage, according to a statement the company provided to SeafoodSource.

“Due to severe weather conditions, we did a controlled shutdown of our Houston manufacturing plant on Friday, securing all assets and the site. The top priority in this situation is always the safety of our employees and their families,” AkerBioMarine said.

On Tuesday, the plant was still shut down. 

“We are monitoring the situation constantly and will resume work as soon as the situation normalizes,” Katrin Berntsen, director of communication for AkerBioMarine, told SeafoodSource.

Andrea Hance, executive director of the Texas Shrimp Association, told SeafoodSource she had heard of the loss of several shrimping boats and docks in Texas.  She said a few regions of the state were particularly hard hit.

“The Port of Aransas, north of Corpus Christi, got obliterated,” Andrea Hance, executive director of the Texas Shrimp Association, told SeafoodSource. “Some boats have sunk, but I don’t know the extent of the damage.”

At Port Lavaca, the marina housing smaller day boats was also “completely devastated,” according to Hance.”That is a major concern for us.”

However, the shrimp fishing industry in eastern Texas has been primarily spared, Hance said. The Texas shrimp industry – worth USD 600 to 750 million (EUR 500 to 627 million) annually – will some suffer short-term losses, Hance said. But overall, Texas’ shrimping fleet includes around 550 large offshore shrimping boats and 350 smaller day boats, and with most vessels making it through the storm unscathed, Hance said she doesn’t expect too much disruption in supply. 

“Most of our boats have generators and the warehouses still have plenty of supply of shrimp,” Hance said. “We ask that they [buyers and consumers] continue requesting and ordering Gulf shrimp. There is nothing wrong with our shrimp; it is going to get tested.”

C. David Veal, executive director of the American Shrimp Processors Association, agreed that but the overall Gulf shrimp industry does not appear to have sustained significant losses and that supply will largely be unaffected. 

“I will be surprised if we see any distribution in supply,” Veal said. “Not to minimize the impact of what happened in Texas, but I will be surprised to see if we see anything devastating for the shrimp industry in the Gulf.”

In Louisiana, a few shrimp processing plants have had water intrusion, but “most of the processing plants will be able to handle water,” Veal said. 

In addition, some Louisiana plants were not operating after the storm because of high winds and loss of power. Bayou Shrimp Processors in Delcambre, for example, opted to temporarily close the plant so employees could take care of their homes, according to Veal.

And the Texas shrimping industry has some major clean-up to deal with, including sunken boats, damaged docks, and hundreds of vessels that are tied up.

“Around 70 percent of our income is derived between 15 July and September,” Hance said. “It is imperative that these boats are out shrimping right now.”

Every day boats are tied up, they lose an average of USD 3,000 to 4,000 (EUR 2,507 to 3,343) a day, Hance said. Nevertheless, “Boats will be tied up for about a week, because the water is still too rough,” she said.

However, because the shrimp will be stirred up after the storm, “It will be easier when we come across with our nets to catch the shrimp,” Hance said.

Contributing Editor

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