Worker shortage leaves Texas shrimp businesses in dire straits
The shrimp industry in Texas is coming up against a considerable worker shortage as a result of the U.S. Congress not renewing the H-2B returning worker program, which is set to expire in September.
Temporary foreign workers utilize the program in Texas to work with shrimp processing plants and vessel owners, according to The Brownsville Herald. After the U.S. government announced in March that the H-2B visa cap for the second half of 2017 had been reached, operations for the Rio Grande Valley's shrimp industry came to a halt, said the newspaper. Moreover, the Brownsville-Port Isabel shrimp fleet has been left with a crew shortage heading into the Texas shrimp season, which kicks off in mid-July.
“The Rio Grande Valley’s shrimp industry increasingly has had to rely on shrimp boat workers from Mexico, who tend to have experience and in some cases have worked on the same U.S. boats for two decades or more,” said The Brownsville Herald.
“If this isn’t fixed, several of those boats will not fish because we will not have crews for them,” said Port Isabel-based shrimp boat owner Lee Caddell, who operates a fleet of nine boats and who typically employs 18 to 19 H-2B workers returning each year. Without a renewed exemption, Texas’ shrimp business will be dealt a devastating blow, said Caddell.
On 15 May, the current shrimp season will come to an end. However, many boats have already been docked for maintenance and due to more meager harvests at this time of year.