As Shrimper Randy Wilson climbs on "The Desperado," he knows he's lucky his boat is the only thing that was damaged. While he was out shrimping this weekend, his boat caught fire while he was asleep. "Something caught fire in the engine room and just gutted the engine room and the cabin and the back of the boat... pretty well destroyed everything," Wilson said.
Wilson's boat is 40-years-old and wasn't insured. For the last three years, he has been unable to make needed repairs to the boat. He said that made his job unsafe. "We been having to neglect stuff because we ain't got the money to fix it," he said. While the damage to the boat can be measured by the truck-load, the damage to the shrimp industry is immeasurable. Shrimpers blame this on the imported shrimp that are causing the prices to plummet.
"The way the imports has got us, it's about 40 percent of our profit. You take 40 percent of your check and try to live on that," Wilson said. Now, Wilson is just trying to make minimal repairs after the fire. Since he's having to cut costs, he still thinks it could be unsafe. "To fix the boat back into working 100 percent you probably talking $12,000 to $14,000," Wilson said. Even though he's catching lots of shrimp, Wilson said he doesn't have that kind of money. "We're catching the poundage; we just ain't getting paid for the poundage," he said.
Not turning enough profit in the shrimping industry is making shrimpers cut costs in safety. Those costs maybe making one of the most dangerous jobs even riskier. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, commercial shrimping and fishing are 20 times more dangerous than other occupations. Eighteen commercial fishermen died in the Gulf of Mexico last year alone. That's five more than in 2002.