Texas Sea Grant team aids shrimp fishermen, earns 2012 Superior Service Award
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Ten Texas Sea Grant College Program outreach professionals who joined forces to help commercial fishermen and aquaculturists cope with competition from imported seafood have received the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s 2012 Superior Service Award in the team category.
The annual Superior Service Awards recognize AgriLife Extension faculty and staff members who provide outstanding performance in Extension education or in service to the organization. Texas Sea Grant’s Extension Program is operated jointly with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
The team has helped Texas commercial shrimp fishermen and aquaculturists who raise catfish and shrimp earn about $10 million through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Program (TAA). TAA provides money to participants in industries that can document that they have been injured by imports. The amount of money per person is relatively small, up to $12,000, but the program requires that participants receive training that teaches them how to make their operations run more efficiently.
“For shrimp fishermen reeling from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, high fuel prices, and increased competition from imports, TAA cash benefits have been a godsend,” said Logan Respess, Texas Sea Grant’s Extension Program Leader. “At best, this ‘found money’ provided a modest, short-term boost to their businesses, but the intensive training they received as part of TAA will ensure the future success of the wild-shrimp fishery.”
The team comprises Seafood Specialist Michael G. Haby, Marine Fisheries Specialist Gary Graham, Environmental Quality Specialist Dr. Russ Miget and Aquaculture Specialist Granvil Treece; and County Coastal and Marine Resource Agents Terrie Looney (Chambers/Jefferson counties), Julie K. Massey (Galveston County), John P. O’Connell (Brazoria County), Rhonda D. Cummins (Calhoun County) and Tony Reisinger (Cameron County); and Aransas County Extension Agent Ginger Easton Smith.
Haby developed the original document that allowed commercial shrimp fishermen and aquaculturists from the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic to apply for TAA assistance. Haby and most of the rest of the team provided training and other activities the fishermen needed to meet TAA requirements. The team’s effort with commercial fishermen was adopted as a regional project by the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Region, which includes the Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi-Alabama and Florida Sea Grant Programs.
Treece worked exclusively with 60 aquaculture operations, most of them small family-run enterprises. He provided required training and helped them develop business plans focused on improving operating efficiency.
“There is no other group that could have achieved the extraordinary level of success that Sea Grant has generated for the shrimp industry,” said John Williams, Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, an industry group representing commercial shrimp fishermen in coastal states from North Carolina to Texas. “I believe TAA for the shrimp industry was destined for success because of the strong commitment the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant programs have to the seafood industry. This group exemplifies the ‘can do’ spirit the industry I represent has come to expect and appreciate.”
The regional Sea Grant effort helped Gulf and South Atlantic shrimp fishermen receive $46 million in TAA payments and earned the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Region’s Superior Outreach Programming Award for 2010-2012.
Texas A&M Extension Service Director Dr. Doug Steele (far left) presented team Superior Service Awards to, from left, Julie Massey, Terrie Looney, Rhonda Cummins, Dr. Russ Miget, Gary Graham and Mike Haby. Team members John O’Connell, Tony Reisinger and Ginger Easton Smith did not attend the awards ceremony. (Photo by Jim Hiney)
Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.