The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997 Page: 414

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

tory course in either folklore or local history. The only shortcoming of the book
is the fact that despite all of Roach's careful description of what the Cross Tim-
bers region was, I found myself wishing for a map, and I ended up consulting
TerryJordan and William Holmes's Texas: A Geography.
The Bay Shrimpers of Texas: Rural Fishermen an a Global Economy. By Robert Lee
Maril. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995. Pp. 304. Introduction,
illustrations, notes, selected bibliography, index. ISBN 0-7006-0704-8.
$17.95, paper.)
The people who fish the bays of Texas for shrimp have less capital, smaller
boats, and inferior political power compared to the Gulf of Mexico shrimpers
who spend weeks at a time trolling nets off the coasts of the United States and
Mexico. Although participating in the same market, the two groups seldom over-
lap or cooperate. The bay fishers interdict the migration of juvenile shrimp from
the salt marshes as they swim through the bays to the Gulf. The Gulf operators
say that the bay-fishing boats reduce their potential catch; the bay fishermen re-
tort that they have as much right to make a living from shrimp as anyone else.
Conservationists attack both groups for threatening marine life and have forced
the administration of fishing seasons, licenses, catch limits, and net alterations to
protect game fish and sea turtles.
For his study, sociologist Robert Lee Maril surveyed 154 bay shrimpers be-
tween Galveston and Corpus Christi, spent five nights working as a deckhand,
and reviewed newspapers, legal documents, and agency reports. He has pro-
duced a broad sociological account with information about workers, economics,
and politics. There are special chapters about women who work mainly as deck-
hands, and about the Vietnamese who came as refugees and took up bay shrimp-
ing as an occupation. This volume is a companion piece to Texas Shrimpers
(1983), his study of the Gulf shrimping business.
It is obvious that Maril's sympathy lies with the fiercely independent bay cap-
tains who work long hours to capture an elusive prey for sale in a competitive
market controlled by global prices. The bay shrimper is, himself, an endangered
species, and Maril senses a potential loss not only for the economy but also for
the culture of the coastal towns if this occupation is lost. Already, 70 percent of
the shrimp market of the United States has been captured by imports and Maril
assigns scant blame to the shrimper who breaks the laws in order to stay in busi-
ness. Maril reveals, moreover, little reverence for the anthropomorphism of sea
turtles, or for heavily endowed conservation groups. Although his focus is on the
current situation and his historical information is thin, with the passage of time
this detailed sociological study will have increasing significance for historians. It
is likely to become the classic study of the shrimping industry for this period,
and a source that we all will quote.



Colorado State University


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997, periodical, 1997; Austin, Texas. ( accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.