At the Biloxi boat docks, the Vietnamese shrimping industry is finally coming back to life. Many fishermen are repairing their nets, fixing damaged equipment on their boats and picking up debris at the shrimp processing plants.
“We are trying to slowly rebuild everything, says shrimp worker Linh Nguyen, “clean up everything, so we can get things going again.”
The Vietnamese shrimpers were hit particularly hard by Hurricane Katrina. Many lost their boats and their homes, while others in this tight-knit community lost the businesses that cater to the fishermen.
Almost all the seafood processing houses that supply ice and fuel and buy the shrimp were torn apart. A few, though, are now cleaning off their equipment and have a novel plan for getting the Vietnamese back in business.
“We will probably process for 12 hours a day,” explains Richard Gollott of the Golden Gulf Coast Packing Co. “And then we'll let some of our competitors come in and process for 12 hours a day.”
The biggest factor hampering the recovery, and the reason many of these boats are still at the dock, is the high price of diesel fuel — which is double what it was last year. A boat catching $60,000 worth of shrimp might have to pay $50,000 for fuel. Adding in the costs of labor, supplies and loan payments on the boats, there's very little profit.
But despite all the problems, ship boat owner Nguyen Hoang still prepares to set sail for the shrimping grounds in the Gulf of Mexico.
“I'm 42 years old, and I don't have no experience,” says Hoang. “So what can I do? The only thing I know is shrimping.”
Vietnamese shrimpers also know a lot about tough times, and aren't about to quit now.