Fuel Prices Impact Fishing Industry

The next time you complain about high prices at the gas pump, consider the commercial fisherman.

While it may cost drivers an extra ten or even twenty dollars, that's nothing compared to the added cost of fueling a shrimp boat.

The "Ocean Dream" gets filled with two things every shrimp boat needs: Ice and fuel. But while the cost of ice is steady, not so with diesel fuel.

"Very, very hard on the boats. This time last year we was down around a dollar a gallon, something like that. And now it's around a dollar sixty cents a gallon," said Richard Gollott, who's owned an ice and fuel dock on Back Bay for more than two decades.

His facility can sell up to 100 thousand gallons of diesel a day. Big shrimp boats have equally large fuel tanks.

"Some of our boats will carry thirty thousand gallons and burn a thousand gallons of fuel a day. These larger rigs. So, it's a big part of their operating budget," Gollott explained.

Mark Moran hears plenty of complaints about rising fuel prices when he visits shrimp boats to work on refrigeration systems. He says these days, shrimpers will delay a trip to take advantage of the slightest drop in diesel prices.

"It costs them from forty to fifty thousand dollars to fuel a freezer boat up. So, they're just waiting for that," said Moran.

You may be wondering why diesel fuel for the shrimp boats costs around a dollar sixty a gallon, while that same diesel fuel for truck drivers is at or above two dollars a gallon. The answer is taxes. You see, there are no road taxes on marine diesel fuel. In fact, government regulators dye the marine fuel a certain color, to help insure it's not used in any vehicles.

Green might be an appropriate color for the shrimp boat fuel, the color of the extra money it's costing fishermen this year.

"Ten cents a gallon on thirty or forty thousand gallons of fuel is a lot of money," said Gollott.

There was a bit of good news on the docks about fuel. The cost of marine diesel dropped about five cents a gallon Thursday morning.