GRAVY GULF EDITION: ARRIVING IN BAYOU LA BATRE, ALABAMA
A line of shrimp boats return to the Bayou promptly at 5pm. None carry any shrimp. They are working for BP "spotting oil." That's a boom in the middle. There's an unoiled pelican perched on the left.
A DISPATCH FROM ASHLEY HALL:
SUNDAY, JUNE 21, 2010
As I arrived in Bayou La Batre after my six and a half hour drive, I fell into the supportive embrace of Leslie Mallet Canter. Leslie and her husband Robert took me immediately to the home of Leslie’s parents, Wallace and Francis Mallet. There I was introduced to a half-dozen family members stopping by for Father’s Day greetings. And there, as I sat in a recliner so plush it almost swallowed me up, we talked oil.
Most tourists who visit the Alabama Gulf Coast will never visit Bayou La Batre. It’s located on the less fashionable west side of Mobile Bay, just a few miles off the Gulf shore. It’s populated by hard-working refinery workers, defense contractors, and–less and less– by shrimpers. Fishing, shrimping and oyster harvesting has a rich heritage here, dating back to the days when Native Americans worked the waters for survival. Everyone you meet here has been a fisherman or shrimper at one time or is related to someone who was. But today, I heard at least five different times that it’s “impossible” to make a living harvesting seafood here. High fuel prices raise costs and cheap imports are supplanting local breeds in the South’s restaurant kitchens. And that was before the oil.
In a normal year, the local brown shrimp (aka “brownie”) season would have started a week or so ago. Instead it’s on hold indefinitely. The white shrimp season usually commences in August, but no one much expects that to happen either.
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Ashley Hall is an SFA member and contributer toGravy, the SFA's foodletter. She is traveling along the Gulf Coast to capture stories relating to the oil spill as a traveling Gravy correspondent. We'll be posting relevant entries here, but visit the blog she's set up for the project, Third Coast Byways, for more.
My Gracious Hosts Leslie and Robert Canter. A line of shrimp boats return to the Bayou. Leslie said she hadn't seen that many boats come in in years. But we all know there's no shrimp on them. "I'm sad," she said with a sigh.
None of the shrimp boats are carrying any nets. No need, unfortunately.