News Roundup: Shrimp Producers Say They Again Face A Worker Shortage

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelAugust 1, 2018 1:35 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The Texas shrimp industry is again facing a critical worker shortage, and we’re already two weeks into the state’s peak season. Andrea Hance is executive director of the Texas Shrimp Association based in Brownsville.

“Probably 60-70 percent of our annual income, is derived between July 15th and then it tapers off probably around October,” Hance says.

Hance explains the shrimp industry relies on seasonal guest worker visas to staff shrimp boats.

“It helps our industry because we’re able to find people across the border that, especially in little fishing communities, that they grew up fishing, they know how to fish, they know what it takes to stay out on a boat and that’s not something that’s easily taught,” she says.

This year there so many requests for these H-2B visas, the Department of Homeland Security had to award them threw a lottery for the first time ever. Hance estimates that a Texas shrimp boat without an adequate crew loses between $5,000-to-$6,000 per day, amounting to a million-dollars-a-day industry wide.

“There may be a captain, and there may be one crewman and they’re looking for a third person or a fourth person. When that boats tied up guess who’s not working – the two Americans that are on the boat, the two U.S. citizens – they’re not working,” Hance says.

Hance says shrimpers have tried to hire American workers to fill these employment gaps but they’re hard to retain. Her group surveyed U.S. citizens hired last year. She says 64 percent wanted off the shrimp boat in the first two days – 94 percent wanted off before the end of the first trip.

A new report finds about a third of Texas high schools have requested voter registration forms from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office.

That’s the first step in giving eligible students the opportunity to register, which is required under Texas law.

James Slattery, with the Texas Civil Rights Project, which released the study, told KUT News that while the number of schools asking for these forms has increased over the last couple of years, it’s not enough.

“So responsibility here is on the state both to help give teachers, principals, and students the resources that they need to make sure that the law and the vision it embodies of a fully engaged citizenry are accomplished,” Slattery says.

According to the study, 82 out of 232 Texas counties did not have a single high school request a voter registration form. You can read the full report from KUT News here.

The race to replace convicted, former State Senator Carlos Uresti has resulted in a runoff between two Petes. There’s Republican and former Texas game warden, Pete Flores, and longtime Democratic lawmaker, Pete Gallego. The special election was held in Texas Senate District 19 Tuesday. Gallego, who finished second to Flores, says he’s ready to campaign again. He spoke with Texas Public Radio.

“This is a great year in which you can contrast the Democratic and Republican philosophies and I look forward to that opportunity,” he says.

Uresti, a San Antonio Democrat resigned in June after being convicted of 11 felonies.