New shrimp season faces uncertainty


Special to the PRESS

That plate of fried shrimp people enjoy at their favorite seafood restaurants, such as the Blue Marlin or at El Pescador in San Benito could either be taken off the menus or cost a lot more. The tastier gulf- shrimp caught by trawlers from the Texas Gulf Coast from the Brownsville/Port Isabel to the Palacios
areas could also be replaced by farmed-raised crustaceans. That’s because this South Texas industry – one of the nation’s largest – is caught in the middle of a crisis caused by today’s U.S. immigration policies and by what is going on in countries south of Mexico.

The expected arrival of hundreds of people who traditionally work on the boats, known as shrimp headers, is on halt right now; yet the kickoff of the 2022 season is about two weeks away. Up to last year, some 300 seasonal workers mostly from south of the border have been keeping the industry afloat.

But U.S.-issued visas called H2B, or documents that allow them to work here on temporary basis in non-agricultural jobs, have not been authorized to those from Mexico and Nicaragua. If the situation stands as is, up to 35 percent of the current Brownville/Port Isabel shrimp fleet of about 130 vessels could not go out to fish in gulf waters around July 15. That amounts to some 45 boats.

Israel Linarte, an industry liaison who recently traveled to Central America to recruit people to work on the boats as shrimp headers, said things are looking bleak.

“The visas the U.S. government has been issuing to Nicaraguan and Mexican citizens have not been available today.” he said. “But many of these visas are now available to people from four other countries.”

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