Alaska fishermen offer to help Southern shrimpers

Posted: Friday, September 09, 2005

ANCHORAGE (AP) — The United Fishermen of Alaska is offering to send everything from rubber boots to netting to help shrimp fishermen hurt by Hurricane Katrina get back on the water.

There’s an unspoken code among fishermen that whenever one fisherman is in need, it is the responsibility of the others to help, UFA Executive Director Mark Vinsel said Thursday.

‘‘It’s a brutal business that is often at the mercy of Mother Nature, and this week’s Gulf hurricane could be next week’s Alaskan tidal wave,’’ he said.

Gulf coast shrimpers welcomed the gesture since everything east of New Orleans to Biloxi, Miss., is ‘‘total devastation,’’ said Eddie Gordon, executive director of Wild American Shrimp Inc., the marketing arm of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. The nonprofit group has more than 500 members in eight Southern states.

‘‘The area is just wiped out. It is flattened. Boats are totally out of the water,’’ he said.

Despite the devastation, Southern Shrimp Alliance members are telling Gordon the same thing.

‘‘I haven’t heard one person say they aren’t going to rebuild their boat,’’ he said. ‘‘This is a region, a people and an industry that weathers storms and rebuilds communities. And in that respect, Katrina will not be different thanks to the generous support of UFA and others.’’

The United Fishermen of Alaska is an umbrella organization of 31 commercial fishing groups. It is offering to send netting, clothing, replacement parts and machinery, as well as provide logistical support to shrimp fishermen in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi affected by Katrina.

‘‘Southern Shrimp Alliance will be coming up with a list of possible supplies, any kind of fishing gear, even things like boots and rain gear, any kind of fishing equipment that individual fishermen need,’’ Vinsel said.

Gulf fishermen annually account for about 100 million pounds of shrimp, or about half of what is harvested from the gulf and the South Atlantic each year.

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