A DISPATCH FROM ASHLEY HALL
TUESDAY, JUNE 29,2010
Richard Gollott runs Gollott Seafood Co. and Gollott Ice House and Oil Dock in East Biloxi. He also grew up here. In fact his great-grandparents used to live across the street from where the plant stands now.
Gollott Seafood Company is a shrimp processing plant. In a typical year they’ll shell, devein, head (the shrimper’s term for “de-head”) and sometimes freeze six million pounds of shrimp. The busy season should be right now. ”This is the time of year when [the plant workers] would make their money. They usually work 70 to 80 hours a week.” As of last Tuesday, they were working about 20 hours.
Like so many in the seafood industry here, Richard wants people to know that the Gulf seafood that’s getting out into the market is safe. As of today, 2/3 of Mississippi’s fishing waters were still clean and open, though reports suggest that could change in the coming days.
Many of the shrimpers have chosen to go work for BP, which reportedly earns them about $1200 a day. But the shrimpers who aren’t BP contractors, either because they decided not to or because they’re on a waiting list, can rake in a bumper crop. Richard spoke of a shrimper who recently brought in $40,000 worth of shrimp from a 10 day trip, mostly because of lack of competition.
Richard is an enthusiastic spokesperson for the local bounty and the most upbeat person I’ve spoken with . He was tapped to be one of the businessmen to sit down with President Obama on his trip to the region two weeks ago. “We’ve got the best tasting shrimp in the world because they come out of the Gulf and out of a natural habitat.” This is a thinly veiled dig at cheap imports, which he says are mostly farm raised. ”I’m optimistic about them getting that well capped,” he said. And though the product coming to him is in extremely smaller quantities, he says the quality remains at its usual high level.
He has bought oily shrimp before, but not lately. The incident was three or four years ago when a shrimper’s gas tank leaked into the bilge and mixed with the harvest. “We threw it in the dumpster,” he said. “And that’s the only time I’ve ever seen oily shrimp in this plant.”
The government has been vigilant about closing any waters that might have oil, so anything getting to the processing plant is clean. But the fishable areas are getting smaller and smaller, and so are the harvests.
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Ashley Hall is an SFA member and contributer to Gravy, 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.