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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

October 20, 2005

Written by C.N.

Vietnamese Gulf Coast Shrimp Industry

Many of you know that in the Gulf Coast, particular around the Houston and New Orleans metropolitan areas, there are numbers of Vietnamese Americans, many of whom work in the fishing and shrimping industries (continuing their long legacy of working in those trades from back in Viet Nam). Not surprisingly, many had their livelihoods devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Houston Chronicle describes their current situation:

As Port Arthur’s Vietnamese residents come back to clean up after Rita, some worry the storm may have dealt their community a devastating blow. Local Vietnamese have always depended on shrimping, an industry that was in decline long before the storm wrecked a few boats and drove up fuel costs for those that remain. “Even before the storm, business was down, down, down every year,” said Nick Tran, the owner of Nick’s Market, a Vietnamese grocery on 9th Avenue, the traditional business area for local Vietnamese. . . .

Some locals say the devastation from Rita might not have been as bad as first thought, even to the shrimping industry. JBS Packing Inc., the major shrimp processing plant in Port Arthur, escaped without significant damage. Many Vietnamese work at the plant. . . .{Owner Jack] Hemmenway estimated that “eight to 10” of the shrimp boats in the Port Arthur fleet were damaged, out of a total of about 150 boats.

But the rising price of fuel in the past year, combined with the plummeting price for shrimp, had already hurt the industry. . . . Without shrimping, it’s not clear what will keep the Vietnamese in Port Arthur. “People my age go to school in Houston or Dallas and don’t come back,” said Jim Pham, a University of Houston student who came back after the storm to help his parents clean up their Port Arthur home. “Other than shrimping, there’s not a lot to do here.”

It’s unfortunate that the mainstream media did not cover the plight of the Vietnamese Americans in the Gulf Coast even a fraction of the time they devoted to other groups caught in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita. It is especially unfortunate that Vietnamese Americans are the one group that sought to revitalize communities and businesses in areas such as Port Arthur but are now being left on their own.

But as the article notes in the end, Vietnamese are legendary for facing adversity and rebuilding their lives, whether that was when they were in Viet Nam or fleeing the country at the end of the Viet Nam War. Unfortunately it looks like they will have to do it once again.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Vietnamese Gulf Coast Shrimp Industry" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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