Shrimpers face tough times

US - Robert Long stood on the deck of the shrimp boat Fortuna one recent morning, a Busch beer in one hand and a scowl on his unshaven face as the boat&#39;s crew prepared to go out into the Gulf of Mexico.</b> <br><br> Shrimp nets hung limply off the Fortuna&#39;s rigging against a flat, rainy sky as the captain revved the boat&#39;s engine, pouring black smoke across the waters of the Port of Tampa. <br><br> To Long, one of the Fortuna&#39;s crewmen, the deep, throbbing pulse of that engine was once the sound of money. But now, the noise is as empty as the nets hanging above his head. <br><br> Shrimpers are riding hard times these days. Battered by high fuel and insurance costs, and especially squeezed by an ever-rising tide of cheaper imported shrimp, shrimpers say Florida&#39;s commercial food shrimp industry is in a marked decline from its heyday 20 years ago, when shrimp boats crowded the Gulf of Mexico like a galaxy of freckles on a child&#39;s sun-splashed face. <br><br> <i>Source: Herald Tribune</i>

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