The Long Haul

Immigrant shrimpers survived Vietnam and the wrath of Texas rednecks. Can they do the same with new fishing restrictions?

And that would be ridiculous, considering that America's demand for shrimp has more than doubled since the early '80s. Texas produces over 70 million pounds of shrimp a year, yet that accounts for only 20 percent of U.S. shrimp consumption. The rest is imported. And the American consumer wants to eat domestic shrimp, Tuam says.

Bay shrimp, an opaque sandy color, splatter onto the deck around 9 a.m. All matter of marine life kick and squirm in the pile. Crabs, even the baby ones, sidle about with their claws raised in a futile defense. Tuam shovels the catch into a bathtub-size plastic container filled with salt water. The fish float to the surface. He simply skims them and tosses them overboard to the delight of pushy squawking seagulls. The shrimp, less buoyant, remain on the bottom.

In rubber boots, Tuam shovels the shrimp onto a square stainless-steel table fitted with a chute, where Thuy sorts the shrimp from the smaller bycatch. Her fingers, clad in yellow latex gloves, travel nimbly over the pile. Shrimp fall into the basket below the chute.

Captain Tom - Big Tu - built a shrimping empire in Palacios.
Deron Neblett
Captain Tom - Big Tu - built a shrimping empire in Palacios.

Captain Tom has taught his daughter well.

E-mail Melissa Hung at

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