An Incredibly Brief History of the Shrimping Industry


Written by: Kacie Couch

 

Well ladies and gentlemen; it’s that time of year. The kids are back in school (much to the relief of many parents) and this season’s Eco Tours winding down! That being said, I feel it is only fitting to write this week’s blog as a tribute to the animal that started it all: the shrimp.

Shrimp on Amelia Island

This one was captured and then released on one of our Eco Tours

As Captain Kevin likes to say, “We invented shrimp on Amelia Island. Well, maybe not. But we did invent the modern day shrimping industry!” And this is very true. The most important invention in shrimping history happened in 1913 on Amelia Island when a fisherman named Billy Corkum came down from Gloucester, Massachusetts on the hunt for blue fish. By a stroke of good luck, Billy ended up visiting some friends on Amelia Island during his journey, and it was here that he watched the process of shrimping for the very first time. Before Mr. Corkum, shrimpers had been using saine nets hung between two boats to catch shrimp. Billy devised a better way. He invented the otter trawl net, the net used by all shrimp boats (and our boat) today. Since the day Billy came to town the shrimping industry has never been the same. People up and down the eastern coast (who had never tried shrimp before) got a taste of the sweet Fernandina shrimp and wanted more! Today, shrimp is the number one seafood consumed in the United States and for a long time Amelia Island remained the capital of this industry. Unfortunately, shrimping has declined on Amelia Island, yet the demand for shrimp keeps growing, and the nets and shrimping processes keep evolving.

The most recent invention to further the shrimping industry is exactly the reason for Amelia Island’s dwindling shrimp industry. I’m talking about foreign shrimp farms. These are the shrimp that you are most likely to find in the frozen section of your supermarket and these things are nasty compared to fresh wild caught shrimp. When a bag of shrimp has to have an ingredient list on the back with 27 unpronounceable additives, you know you have a problem. Shrimp should just be shrimp, end of story. This is one reason why we promote eating local shrimp! Do your body (and local shrimpers) a favor and eat local!

Shrimp from Amelia Island

Yes, they can bite

Another notable difference between our shrimp and those farm raised imposters is the type of shrimp. There are four different types of edible shrimp that you will find on the east coast of Florida: The pink, the brown, the white, and the red royal shrimp. Pink shrimp are found farther south, red royals are found in very deep water offshore, and brown and white shrimp are found right here, depending on the season! Most all foreign farm raised shrimp on the other hand, are very small pink shrimp. Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “How does the color make a difference? Shrimp are shrimp!” but ask a local or try a few different kinds yourself and you will notice an extreme variance! Pink, while popular, are very bland compared to the local favorite, the brown shrimp (or as they’re affectionately known: “the brownies”). Row shrimp (any kind of shrimp with an egg sack still attached) are extra sweet and delicious, but many find the prospect of eating a shrimp with eggs unenticing. I would definitely recommend going out of your comfort zone and exploring all of the options shrimp have to offer!

So there you have it; an incredibly brief history of the shrimping industry in six hundred words or less. If you’re interested in knowing more (and you should be- the complete history is truly fascinating!) come out on one of our Eco Tours! We are running every Saturday this August and will hopefully resume next year.

See you on the boat, everyone!

 

I’d love to know what you think about this post.

For more information or to buy a ticket for the next Amelia River Cruise check out our schedule.

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