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SInterview ed O ct. 15
Coleman Langshaw interjecting
Brad What does Standard Marine do in the shrimping industry, David?
David We sell everything from trawl doors to tackle, the Burbank Trawl Makers contract
exclusively through Standard Marine, so we have nets, netting, chain, rope, just a full
array of anything a shrimper would need for his boat.
Brad How long have you been involved in this business?
David I personally have been involved 20 years in April. My grandfather and his brothers
founded the business, he started it and his brothers cam in shortly after. I think both of
his brothers pursued other challenges in other businesses, and I think he took it over in
1915. Standard was a grocery store then, it sold hardware up on Atlantic Ave. The
shrimping industry started here in Fernandina, so my grandfather, being in business, was
closely associated with the shrimpermen, started carrying materials they used, netting and
blocks and other things. As the industry grew, he grew with it. My father and two of his
brothers were also in the business, came up during the depression and the war. We are
currently headquartered in Tampa; as the shrimp moved to Campeche, which is why my
uncle, Baker Hardee moved to Tampa, who was the owner and CEO of the company they
moved to follow the shrimp, actually first toward Tugas down in Key West and then they
moved to Tampa after that, opening facilities, both of which are still open and supplying
the fleets down there.
Brad Does this industry follow a regular growth cycle?
David No, not really. The production of shrimp seems to be pretty constant. There's not a lot
of change in what the estuaries and rivers can produce but the problem seems to be price,
it has a big impact on if the shrimpmen are going to make money or not. If they're
producing x number of millions of pounds of shrimp out of Georgia per year, if the price
of shrimp's a dollar higher then you've got a big jump in your after tax dollars. If your
* price goes down a buck or two then your profit's gone and it starts eating into your
working capital. The number of boats, the number of people in the industry, makes a big
Brad Speaking about taxes and the government, how has the government played into this
David The regulations that government agencies have imposed have made a difference in the
shrimping industry. Back in the late 80's they resisted the turtle excluders, the industry
now has come to accept them; there has been a lot of work done now on fin fish
excluders; for the first time in history I think that the fishermen have recognized that they
have to target just shrimp. Historically shrimpermen have always been
environmentalists, because the ocean is where they make their living and they knew that.
While you may have one or two bad apples, most of the shrimpermen that I have been
associated with have been have been very conscious of their environment. They care
about the crop, the industry has been regulating itself for many, many years, not letting
themselves come in and catch the shrimp that are too small, asking the government:
"Please regulate the shrimping during these months." As far as the regulation with the
turtle excluders, industry's fought that and they've come to accept that now. National
Marine Fisheries has stated last year that we had 99% compliance with teds, legal teds.
They're pulling the teds, and they're really putting their best foot forward to try to help the
industry help itself.
Brad What kind of environmental impact does the already existing industry have, do you
David Any industry, I don't care what it is, is going to have some negative impacts to it,
whether it's manufacturing, paper mills, or Jaguar football. Any industry is going to
bring some negatives. The by-catch has always been an issue. Some of the information
that has been used by science has been used against the industry has not always been as
factual as what we would contend that it should be. We've had some impact with
by-catch, probably that's by far the biggest problem. A lot of the figures that you see, it's
all by catch: it's jellyfish and it's pogies and it's what they call trash-fish. The East Coast
doesn't catch any groupers or snappers, you know, the money fish, they don't catch 'em.
They used to catch a lot of whiting and they used to catch a lot of flounder, those days are
gone because of the turtle excluders. I think that by the year 2000 or 2010, for sure,
you're going to see an industry that's as sophisticated as it's going to get and they are
going to be targeting those species as best as they can target it. And I think that they'll
accept that. I think that they know now that that's the trend. There's been, like I said, a
lot of work on by-catch excluders, the government has mandated that we do it, we're
doing it, and, hopefully, as we continue to meet the challenges that are presented to us we
will continue to eliminate what problems that this industry does create, keep it to a
Brad Has there not been a recent net ban, Amendment 3?
David Amendment 3 was voted in, went into effect this summer. It was voted in in November.
It had nothing to do with the regulatory bodies of the government. It was an amendment
that was taken to the voters; it's been done in a lot of other states: California, Washington
State just voted it down, they voted to keep the nets in the water. It affects near-shore and
in-shore fishing grounds; it affected primarily gill netters and saners. The shrimping
industry was thrown into that whole melding pot of nets, and, because we are as sensitive
as we are to the environmental issues that have been presented, I never felt like we really
had a place in that Amendment. I didn't think that we deserved that. The Florida
Sportsman, the fishing magazine, the publisher and owner of that was really big into
seeing that this thing worked. He put up the first seed money toward it, worked a lot to
see that this happened. There was moneys that came in from Texas. And why people in
Texas gave a dam about closing Florida waters, you got to figure out yourself. There was
a push among the sports fishermen, more than the environmentalists, to see that we were
out. Look at Washington State, where are there not more environmentalists than
Washington State? And they voted to keep the nets. But they don't have the sports
fishermen there. A lot of sports fishermen, I believe, were misled into their thinking
that, by eliminating the nets, you would eliminate a problem. It's hard for me to really
speak to this fairly, 'cause I'm not familiar with the sane nets and what problems they
were creating. I know that gill nets would have to be regulated, would have to be
regulated very closely, because they're indiscriminate catchers of fish. If those
regulations are working or not, I really don't know. I know that the impact that the
shrimping industry had, in Florida waters, are minimal. And because of an interpretation
of a judge in Appalachicola, they restricted the size of the net inshore and off to 1 mile,
which is near shore waters. So the large shrimp boats that we sell to, from one mile out
to three miles, they can continue to pull the same size nets that they've always pulled.
But from one mile in they altered the size of the net. The Amendment called for a 500
square mesh net. Now, a circuit court judge ruled that the ratio that the Amendment
called for was not, the interpretation that he called for was 500 square meshes of netting
was 500 square meshes of netting. And when you applied his rationale, his judgment, it
created a larger net than what the Amendment called for. But he said that it is what it is,
and they wrote it up, and so the in-shore shrimpermen have not been hurt as badly as they
would have been had the Amendment, and I think the spirit of the Amendment, gone
through as they had wanted it to. That would have eliminated the in-shore shrimping all
together, had that happened. The off-shore guys have had to give up the mile, and they
have probably took the biggest hit in the shrimping industry because giving up that mile
has cost them some production.
Brad Who do you deal with more, the companies or the personal?
David We deal through Fernandina. This is the difference in our business: you ask that same
question in Tampa, and they're going to say that they deal with large fleet owners, we
deal with packing houses, we deal with large net shops. Fernandina, because of the East
Coast, there are very few fleets left on the East Coast, most are individual boat owners,
and that's who we deal with here.
Brad Is there some reason for the East Coast / West Coast difference?
David West Coast, they're able to support fleets. It's money, boils down to production, too. It
goes back to the cost of the boats. The cost of the boats has gone up, there's more
regulations on the boats, your operating expenses are much higher. You have to have a
lot of production to warrant owning a fleet of boats and getting the production needed to
pay for those boats. It's money. The Gulf has more shrimp.
Brad Does that follow some cycle? The shrimp are here, so we go over here to shrimp; we
deplete the shrimp over here and, while we're fishing here, the shrimp grow over there.
David No, I think shrimp is like any other commodity: it runs in cycles. I have a friend that
owns land in Georgia and he says that he can regulate the amount of fertilizer and the
amount of water and virtually have the same rotation of the crops and the soil, and one
year it's just better than the other. I think that, being shrimp live for 18 months that,
unlike fish, that it takes 20 years to grow up and market, it's hard to overfish shrimp. To
answer your question, if Texas is having a better year than, say, the East Coast, there are
boats that will go to Texas, and they'll go over for the opening You don't see many
Texas boats coming to the East Coast, though, that's rare. You'll see these Gulf
shrimpermen go and fish a lot further off shore than we did and for a lot longer trips.
Most of the guys on the East Coast will go out for a day or two or three. On the Gulf,
they'll go out for a month at a time. They're geared up to fish for long periods of time and
catch a lot of shrimp, because the shrimp are being caught in deeper waters.
Brad Didn't you say that they bred in the shallower waters?
David They do here. There's two different kinds of shrimp. The brown shrimp come in from
off shore, they're caught in the summer. The white shrimp breeds in these local estuaries,
and the larvae actually will wash into the estuaries, where it'll stay 'till the spring. I have
read where, that larvae can actually sit up and skip years; that if, say there's too much salt
in the water, and that mother nature decides that it's not gonna be a good year to produce
all this larvae. The larvae can actually hold over a year, or more, and then when the
conditions are right, it'll produce more larvae and more shrimp. And that very well might
have some bearing on why some years are so much better than others.
Brad So it doesn't really follow any set cycle.
David Well, it does when they come in. You know, we catch roe shrimp, which are the shrimp
that are harvested in the spring. And those are actually the mom and the dads of the
shrimp that are caught in the fall. They're called roe shrimp because the roe, which is the
larvae, has gone into the estuaries, then they fall back out off shore to die. The baby
shrimp that they produce are the crop; it grows up from the spring to the fall, and that's
the shrimp that we're catching now. The bulk of that are the shrimp that were actually
spawned back in the winter and spring of this year, winter of last year. So they regulate
when you can fish Florida waters; industry wanted that, and they got it. You can't fish
these waters until June one, and that's to protect the roe shrimp. Any roe shrimp that falls
outside of the three miles, they feel like has already rode and is, literally, going out to die.
They go South from here, they head down the Cape, and then they're no more.
Coleman It's a fish egg, basically, fish, crabs, lobster. You see it sometimes on some fish.
David And you can see it in the shrimp. If it's a roe shrimp it has roe in it, you can see the roe.
Brad Is it the better time to catch the shrimp, when they have the eggs?
David No, they try not to catch them when they have the eggs.
Brad Because that will deteriorate next year's crop?
David Right. So industry tries not to do it themselves. But the next year crop is when you
catch most of the shrimp. Brown shrimp come in during the summer; in fact, around the
fourth of July. And the brown and white shrimp don't mix well. Generally by the end of
August, the brown shrimp will start playing out, the white shrimp will start showing up,
and you just won't see the brownies any more. But it's been a good industry, I mean. It's
been good for the community, the shrimping industry has been very good for Fernandina,
throughout the years it's certainly been good to our family, and it's produced a lot ofjobs.
Not just here, this is a multi, multi million dollar business, multi billion dollar. It started
right here in Fernandina, and now it's a worldwide source of food.
Brad The entire worldwide industry?
David The entire industry started right here in Femandina.
Brad How did that happen?
David Shrimp, initially, was not considered a premium, luxury food. And there just wasn't a
market for it. The founders of this industry started here, in Saint Augustine and
Brunswick and the market grew. And people just found shrimp and enjoyed them, while
they had been eaten here for years, there was no market. But as the market grew, so did
the industry. And so did the fleets moving from one fishing ground to the next overseas.
My uncle followed the fleet over there in 1950 and started working those accounts and
started selling them merchandise down in other countries. It's been through my uncle's
good leadership and through them being able to stay with the fleets, it's resulted in
Standard Marine's growth. So we've been very fortunate; it's been a great ride so far.
Brad Off the top of your head, do you know where this business, in particular, is heading?
SDavid I think that we're like any other com pany; if the right thing were to com e down the tubes
we might look at diversifying some. I think that there'll always be a shrimping industry.
I think that Standard will always be the leader in the shrimping industry as far as supplies
Brad So this is a world wide leader?
David Standard Marine as a whole. There's no question that, in the marine supply business to
the shrimping industry, Standard is, going away, the biggest and the best. Without
question. That's been the three brothers working all their lives in it and my grandfather,
now my first cousin, Jimmy Hardee, is in Tampa, the president of the company. I think
that the industry as a whole has decreased a lot. The size of the fleet's down probably
50% in the last 15, 20 years. It's probably been, we had a big influx of boats back in the
late 70's, but since then we've had the same production of shrimp with way too many
boats trying to catch the same amount of shrimp. And with the price dropping because of
imports, the industry took a lot of hits: the size of the fleet's been cut in half, so there's
probably not half the boats here that were here in 1979, 1980
Brad Is that when the big change came?
David That's when the big change came, it was just gang busters. You had two boat builders
down in St. Augustine, we couldn't get the stuff down there fast enough. You had
electricians and doctors and lawyers looking for money making tax shelters. It was great
while it lasted, but it didn't last long. Because the price went up the same time the
production, they had a slight increase in production. Some increase, so there's some
fluctuation. '78 was a really good year, they started catching rock shrimp off the East
Coast here. The rock shrimp showed up, the white shrimp showed up, they started
buying contracts from these boat builders just to try to jump ahead of other people,
individuals that had contracts were selling those contracts to other individuals. They
were trying to get their name ahead in the line to get the boat quicker. And that resulted
in just too many boats, fishing the same number of shrimp. It's hard to over fish shrimp
because of their life cycle, but, if you get too many boats, they can't all make a living
doing it, catching the same number of shrimp. Imports hurt the price a lot, and that really
Sslam m ed the industry in the late 80's, early 90's. That now is not as m uch a factor as it
was, the prices have firmed back up. The industry had a good year.
Brad I heard that these imports, though, are growing in little ponds and backyard ditches.
David I'm not real familiar. I know that there's a lot of fish farms out there: Ecuador, China.
China, now, they're getting out of it; they're going back to rice, I understand. There's still
a lot of shrimp being produced worldwide, there's still some being produced there in the
United States, but it's not affecting the price of the shrimp as much now as it was 5 or 6
years ago. And as long as our prices hold up, you'll always have an industry that's made
up of second, third generation fishermen. On this coast, there's a lot of second and third
generation fishermen here. Professional fishermen; you're not going to get somebody that
gets fed up working at the grocery that wants to grab a boat to go shrimping, you know,
that's just not going to happen.
Brad It takes some skill, some learning?
David It takes a lot of it, yeah. And you've got to be a businessman, you've got to know how to
meet regulations, pay your taxes; the Coast Guard has certainly clamped down on all
O these boats, and there's just so many things that you have to deal with now that you didn't
have to deal with 40 years ago. But that's growth, that's progress. That's how things
change. American business has had to face the same challenge, so we just have to meet
them right along with everybody else.
Brad Anything else you'd like to say?
David I'd like to thank Coleman for getting me involved in this, and I'd like to thank you, of
course, and I think that this is a very good thing that you're doing, to let the fishermen
have an opportunity to talk about themselves. I think you're going to find some real
interesting stuff out there, and I understand you're on the right track. I just hope
people continue to enjoy shrimp as much as we do, and if they'll keep doing that, then
this industry will always have a place in Florida's heart, I think.
Brad Like you said, it was born in Fernandina, born in Florida, so you hope it's not going
David I hope not, I hope it's here. 'Cause I like to eat, too; I don't turn down any shrimp, either.