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A Disappearing Coastal Icon

When your mind’s eye pictures the Carolina coast, odds are there is a shrimp trawler on the horizon.  For me the shrimp boat is as much an icon of the Carolina coast as fishing piers, colorful umbrellas, children playing in the sand, warm breezes, tidal marshes and Spanish moss hanging from the palmetto trees.  Shrimping is part of the coastal culture, a family business. It is who you are and what you know and do, a way of life passed down from generation to generation since the 1920’s.  During WW II, the government actually confiscated portions of the shrimper’s catch for the war efforts.

Like many US industries and occupations, shrimping faces similar challenges.  “Making ends meet grows harder every year.”  Younger generations are finding more and more concerns in maintaining the family business.  South Carolina commercial trawling licenses numbered approximately 350 in 2009 down from 915 in 2000 while the coastal population has increased nearly 60% since 1980.  Due to this coastal development, shrimp dock owners are selling their waterfront properties for development.  Shrimpers are competing with recreational boaters for dock space and dockage fees.  Shrimp prices have declined for the shrimpers due to low cost imported and farm-raised shrimp.  Fuel costs have soared.  “Who wants to buy a shrimp boat and what bank will lend the money.”

I do not want these images to disappear from the Carolina coast.  As the bumper sticker says, “Friends don’t let friends buy imported, farm raised shrimp”.  I enjoy the coast and the shrimp trawlers that are part of the coastal scene.  My growing gallery entitled “Shrimp Boats” is a constant reminder to me to support the Carolina shrimpers and try to always buy local shrimp.  They just taste better.

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