Blessing includes pleas for relief in wake of worker shortage

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

“The storm is never the story,” the Rev. Mark Watters said Monday, using a metaphor about sailing in rough seas to describe the current situation faced by local shrimpers just days before the season is set to open on Saturday, July 15.

Watters made the remark during an annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremony held at Zimco Marine by the Texas Shrimpers Association (TSA). For 12 years, Watters has delivered a sermon and toured the Brownsville Shrimp Basin in a shrimp trawler to bless the boats before they head out to sea each summer. His prayers for bountiful catches and safe voyages were augmented this year, however, by a plea for people as the local shrimping industry faces a worker shortfall in the hundreds.

“This is special, because we’re having trouble finding workers,” said Rep. René Oliveira (D-Brownsville) who was on hand at the public ceremony. Oliveira recalled his own youth spent working on the docks doing whatever tasks he could, but shared concerns that federal limitations on the number  temporary foreign workers will cost the industry millions.

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