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Valley Shrimping Industry Struggles While Waiting for Visas

3 years 3 months 3 days ago Wednesday, July 26 2017 Jul 26, 2017 July 26, 2017 4:54 PM July 26, 2017 in News

BROWNSVILLE – A Brownsville shrimp boat owner said he's losing thousands of dollars every day in the industry. 

Carlton Reyes is in his 48th shrimping season. Every year, he said he searches for workers to bring in what often adds up to thousands of pounds of shrimp daily. Now, he is waiting for a group of Mexican workers he has had for years. 

"We didn't get our visas this year like we normally do. So we took out guys that were hopefully going to be able to fill in, if you will. Some of them didn't," said Reyes. 

The White House administration held up the H2B visas until last week. Reyes said he quickly applied. He found out Sunday his 14 H2B visa applications had been approved by the federal government. Now, he plays the waiting game. 

"What the immigration does is forward the information to the consulate in Matamoros. Once that is there at the consulate, the guys can go and get visas," added Reyes. 

Reyes said the process could take another two to three weeks.  He said shrimpers spend 35 to 50 days at sea.

Reyes said it's a difficult job and having to rely on inexperienced workers can be a problem. 

"I had a boat at the dock this morning that came in because the two guys we took out as deckhands quit," he said. "So now we're trying to find someone to go back out."

We reached out to the Texas Shrimp Association to see how it is helping shrimp boat owners who have had to wait for the H2B visas to arrive. Greg Londrie, a spokesperson for the group, said TSA has worked to provide domestic workers for shrimp boat owners. 

"Texas Shrimp Association has done a wonderful job in the months leading up to shrimp season putting word out throughout their social media about the need for workers," said Londrie.

Londrie added the Texas Shrimp Association has raised awareness of the need for H2B workers through media and urged its supporters to contact congress.  But he said it is up to the U.S. Departments of Labor and Homeland Security to approve H2B applications, then send them out. 

The Valley shrimping industry accounts for about ten percent of the nation's shrimp supply. 

Londrie said the gulf shrimping season started on July 15 and ends on May 15 of next year. He said it is because shrimp have an average lifespan of a year and a half. The off-season allows new shrimp to grow and migrate to more deep waters of the gulf.

Once in the deep waters, he said they can grow to a 31 to 35 count per pound. 

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