Before we left this area we stopped at the Wild Ocean market to buy some local seafood. They sold many varieties of fresh shrimp as well as other flat fish. As we asked the dumb questions a landlubber asks, the clerk encouraged us to take the tour of their facility in Port Canaveral to learn more about the fish business, shrimp in particular. It was a good tour to take on a cool, rainy day and prevented us from dwelling on the fact that we had looked forward to a final bike ride, round of golf, or some other outdoor activity. But not in the rain.
The guide spent a lot of time talking about rules and regulations. It reminded us about things we had learned about salmon fishing when we were in Alaska. She said that the US has the most organized and controlled fishing industry in the world. It still must be hard to verify that fishermen are following thess rules when they are out at sea, but compliance is in their own best interest, lest the supply of fish dwindle to a point where it cannot survive. Some fish have long life cycles. Orange roughie cannot reproduce until they are 18 - 20 years old. Shrimp have a lifestyle of 13 months and reproduce like crazy. Consequently they are in much less danger of extinction. Different varieties of shrimp live in different depths of water, some as much as 1,200 feet deep. The labor and fuel costs involved in catching the shrimp that are far from the shore, have lead to farming. The danger here is that the water can become contaminated by the confined shrimp, but if handled properly they can be just as tasty and nutritious as the wild catch. But around here, fish farming is a taboo topic.
Rock shrimp are a local speciality. For a long time no one could figure out how to open their super hard shells in an efficient manner. Finally someone invented a machine that could split them open and another great eating opportunity blossomed. Shrimp trawlers hand nets from long poles suspended from their sides and inadvertently snag other animals beside shrimp. Sea turtle suffered greatly from this because they could not rise to the top for air once they are entangled in the nets. A special escape net was invented and is required for every shrimp fisherman. People are working on other devices that will free everything but the shrimp. Shrimp boats head out for two weeks at a time and have freezing capabilities.
The facility we toured buys the seafood from the fishermen and reports every catch it buys to the government, serving as a source of regulation. We actually saw little fish on site. To keep things fresh everything that comes in is moved out ASAP. The huge walk-in freezer was mostly full of bait. Pelicans bobbed on the waves right outside the fishery, waiting for something to fall their way. Nothing did while we were there. At the end of the our we got samples of different kinds of shrimp and were told that they all tasted differently. To my unsophisticated palate they all tasted the same - GREAT!