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Gulf shrimpers in Harvey's path 'got hit badly'

Officials gathering updates across Gulf sector to assess damage. Heavy rainfall to hit more areas this week.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday night just northeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, as a Category 4 hurricane, and among the people in its devastating path were fishermen in the Gulf shrimp sector.

Extreme wind and heavy rainfall damaged and flooded certain areas of southeast Texas, but other areas were left unscathed, according to those in the Gulf shrimp sector. However, they emphasized it was still too early to accurately assess the full scope of damages to the industry.

Texas Shrimp Association (TSA) Executive Director Andrea Hance said the deep south Texas coastline was mostly fine in some parts, such as Brownsville, where it didn't rain at all. Fisherman Holland Vandennieuwenhof at the Port of Brownsville reported on Facebook all was fine.

"Palacios shrimpers said everything is ok," she told IntraFish. "But I haven't been able to get in touch with the people north of Corpus Christi where the brunt of the storm hit." She said there are reports that "most everything was destroyed" in areas within Harvey's direct path, but they're still gathering information to fully determine damages.

"I know they got hit badly in Port Aransas," which sits on an island south of Corpus Christi, said Hance. "They're not letting people back on the island yet. Damage in areas is inevitable, but we're not sure how much right now."

Vandennieuwenhof said there were reports of some lost shrimp vessels.

"The Shrimp Basin lost a boat at Aransas Pass and several tug and push boats were lost trying to save a huge oil drilling ship at Corpus that broke loose from it's moorings. Also, word is that several shrimp boats sunk at Palacios," said Vandennieuwenhof.

Hance estimated there is some damage in the Galveston area, where there are a lot of bay shrimpers.

Some information being gathered is from news reports, social media and drone footage, but it has also been difficult to contact fishermen in evacuation areas. The TSA sent out a social media blast Monday morning to reach out to affected fishermen.

American Shrimp Processors Association Executive Director David Veal said there may be quite a bit of damage from those in Harvey's path based from his experience with Hurricane Katrina and televised reports, but he received confirmation from other regions that there were no issues.

"I talked to one or two of the processors in eastern Texas this morning and they're all fine," he told IntraFish. "The fleet in eastern Texas is all fine also."

The National Weather Service predicts the hurricane will slow down and turn into a tropical cyclone Monday or Tuesday, which will bring another 15 to 25 inches of rainfall through Thursday for the upper Texas coast and southwestern Louisiana as well as 5 to 15 inches for the rest of the Louisiana coastline.

Hance said Port Arthur, just southeast of Houston, is getting hit right now.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said Sunday it sent dozens of agents, trucks and vessels to the Houston area to assist Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with Hurricane Harvey search and rescue efforts.

As for the shrimp, Veal feels there will not be a significant impact from the high rainfall.

"It's the offshore season right now and most of the shrimp we're catching now are larger shrimp," he said. "I think it may make those shrimp move around, but unless they get trapped in fresh water, it won't be a big impact.

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"It'll change the salinity along the shore first so there will be some local impact, but with this much flooding and when you look at the dilution effect in the gulf, there will probably not be a significant impact" on gulf salinity and shrimp biomass.

He added debris will affect nearshore and inshore fisheries.

The Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA) warned US shrimpers in Texas and Louisiana on Friday to take precautions.

"The shrimpers in the path of the Hurricane disrupted business as usual to return to port and are preparing the boats for the storm," said the SSA. "The natural disasters are very costly to the industry, in time missed at sea during peak season, damages to boats, docks and processing facilities, and personal hardships. However, after major Hurricanes such as Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the US shrimp industry took the necessary actions to keep the food supply safe and to rebuild quickly."


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