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Interviewee: Thomas Schultz

Role: Commercial Fisherman

Date of Interview: 10/17/11

Collection: Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History Project

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

Abstract: Thomas Schultz is a fisherman from a multigenerational fishing family. He talks about shrimping, licensing, numbers of shrimping boats in the Gulf of Mexico, and regulations for bycatch reduction in shrimping. He describes some of the costs of shrimping as well as some ways to improve shrimp catches.

Transcript:

Last year we had a meeting with – it's a group, and it's the people, the driving force behind it is the fishery service in Tampa. And what they want to do is find out that same thing, is where the industry's going. And prior to 2000, say 2000, they was 7,986 commercial licenses in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, it's a difference between shrimping, buying a shrimp license and shrimping in the Mississippi Sound, Louisiana, or Texas, or Florida. But to fish in federal waters, outside the twelve mile, you got to have a commercial shrimp license issued by the feds. There was seven thousand. They said that we going to have to eliminate by–catch, cut by–catch. We going to have to do all of these things. We going to have to do. We going to have to cut them 60 percent. Well, the shrimp fleet went from that 7,986, it went down to year before last they was fourteen hundred boats that fished. They had the license, but they chose not to fish. This year here that just passed, the Texas season, they was nine hundred and eighty people that fished. So here you went way the hell under that 60 percent just by the number of boats, but they said that that don't count. It don't count that a-way. Said if you got one boat out there, he's still got to reduce that 60 percent.

What's going to have to happen – and I've talked with a bunch of fishermen about this on these big boats. What's going to have to happen is that you going to have to catch shrimp close to home. You going to have to catch them fast. You going to have to have a closed season, or you going to have to close the whole Gulf down. Nobody wants to hear that. A big majority of the guys that was at the meeting that we talked with about this, "What the hell do we do?" Don't make any difference. If you could get the Gulf shut down for three months of the year, when it would open back again, you'd be able to catch shrimp closer to home, catch them quicker, when the shrimp were gone, go tie back to the dock because you can't run them boats the way we used to run them. You can't pay the bills. When I had this boat built, the insurance on it was twenty-five hundred dollars a month for P and I [protection and indemnity] and for liability. That same boat there, that insurance on that boat's sixty thousand dollars a year. Well, that's another big bill you got on top of you. So you're going to have to have a – what we wanted to do is have a season, and man, we got into all kind of controversies with this. We wanted a season where when the Texas season opens, we'd have a closed season in Mississippi, and we would open the same time that Texas. What that would do, that would scatter the boats out over the whole Gulf. And you wouldn't put a big bunch of boats in Texas at one time, or a big bunch in Mississippi at one time. It would make you catch shrimp a little longer because it'd be less boats in your area.

To listen to Thomas's interview, click here.