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Interviewee: Earl Ross

Role: Commercial Shrimper

Date of Interview: 11/4/11

Collection: Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: Earl Ross is a shrimper in Biloxi, Mississippi. He talks about learning to shrimp, changes in fertile shrimping grounds during his career, the economics of costs of fuel compared to prices paid for his catch, new technologies in shrimp boats, and the emerging necessity of marketing and retailing his own catch.

Transcript:

No. I reckon I'm like my mother and father. I tried to steer all my kids away from it. I'd tell them, "You need to make a few trips with me, just to see what it was all about." Where I had to learn from trial and error – and I said that earlier, but I even took some, in the [19]70s they had the Georgia Bulldog, University of Georgia, and I went to some classes and learned how to set tickler chains and all through the University of Georgia. But I think if they did it, I think they'd have to get a deepwater boat or either a shallow-draft. I mean, we're at a point now; either you've got to go offshore, or you got to get against the beach. You can't get a -boat. That was so good for so many years; it would be versatile. But I think if you did it you'd have to be more versatile. I mean, you'd have to go out in the deeper water. You'd have to be willing to work a larger area, and I'm saying larger; I mean from Key West [Florida] all the way to Brownsville [Texas], just follow the shrimp. You'd probably have to do like the Vietnamese fishermen; you'd get a bigger boat; stay gone but – you still battling the fuel prices and the cost, I mean, the price of shrimp. When I started, a dollar, seventy was not bad for forty/fifty. Now, we're getting a dollar and a quarter. It might be up to a dollar, forty right now because the season's winding down. But over thirty years, you assume the price would go up a little bit. And you having to change your way of thought, like, ice boats like I have? That's a dinosaur. You need a freezer boat, and you want a freezer boat that you just sell to the wholesalers, to the factories? I would say, "No. You want something that you can retail because you got to try to" – [2009] was the first year I ever sold shrimp across the deck of my boat. Before that I'd just go unload everything at the factory, and I was happy. Two thousand nine, we started selling shrimp off the back of the boat to try to make a trip. And I think if you had a freezer, that would give you quality shrimp. And that's what I'm looking at now. I'm looking at having to put something on the boat where I can retail my own shrimp, sell my own label.

To listen to Earl's interview, click here.