Shrimp is easily America's favourite seafood, but its very popularity is the wellspring of problems that threaten the shrimp industry's existence. Asian-Cajun FusionShrimp from the Bay to the Bayou provides an insightful analysis of this paradox and a detailed, thorough history of the industry in Louisiana.
Dried shrimp technology was part of the cultural heritage Pearl River Chinese immigrants introduced into the Americas in the mid-nineteenth century. As early as 1870, Chinese natives built shrimp-drying operations in Louisiana's wetlands and exported the product to Asia through the port of San Francisco. This trade internationalized the shrimp industry. About three years before Louisiana's Chinese community began their export endeavours, manufactured ice became available in New Orleans, and the Dunbar family introduced patented canning technology. The convergence of these ancient and modern technologies shaped the evolution of the northern Gulf Coast's shrimp industry to the present.
Coastal Louisiana's historic connection to the Pacific Rim endures. Not only does the region continue to export dried shrimp to Asian markets domestically and internationally, but since 2000 the region's large Vietnamese immigrant population has increasingly dominated Louisiana's fresh shrimp harvest. Louisiana shrimp constitute the American gold standard of raw seafood excellence. Yet, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, cheap imports are forcing the nation's domestic shrimp industry to rediscover its economic roots. "Fresh off the boat" signs and real-time internet connections with active trawlers are reestablishing the industry's ties to local consumers. Direct marketing has opened the industry to middle-class customers who meet the boats at the docks. This "right off the boat" paradigm appears to be leading the way to reestablishment of sustainable aquatic resources. All-one-can-eat shrimp buffets are not going to disappear, but the Louisiana shrimp industry's fate will ultimately be determined by discerning consumers' palates.
Carl A. Brasseaux, former director of the Center for Louisiana Studies and a Louisiana Writer of the Year, has spent a lifetime studying the peoples and cultures of the Louisiana coastal plain. He is the author or co-author of more than forty books including Ain't There No More: Louisiana's Disappearing Coastal Plain; Acadian to Cajun: Transformation of a People, 1803-1877; and Creoles of Color in the Bayou Country, all published by University Press of Mississippi.
Donald W. Davis has been involved in coastal-related research for more than forty years on the wide array of renewable and nonrenewable resources vital to the use of the wetlands. His work has appeared in numerous journals including Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Shore & Beach, Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, Louisiana Conservationists, and Louisiana History. He is co-author of Ain't There No More: Louisiana's Disappearing Coastal Plain, published by the University Press of Mississippi.
"Woven through this exhaustive and extremely well-illustrated history of the shrimp industry in Louisiana is the fascinating story of the interaction between the largely Cajun and, first, Chinese and, later, Vietnamese participants in the industry. This interaction between Asian immigrants and other US fishermen, often immigrants themselves, which has also occurred in other US coastal fishing communities, is particularly salient and poignant as documented by Brasseaux and Davis in Louisiana."
– Michael Orboch, cultural anthropologist working with fisheries and fishing communities worldwide
"Asian-Cajun Fusion is a very informative, interesting, and in-depth study of the Gulf Coast shrimp industry spanning a century. It demonstrates how important shrimping has been to our culture and way of life."
– Jim Gossen, past chairman of Sysco Louisiana Foods Company and member of the board of directors of the Gulf Seafood Foundation
"Shrimp are an integral aspect of south Louisiana's history. When people think of the economic history of Louisiana, thoughts turn to oil, but the shrimping industry is equally important, perhaps more so. Asian-Cajun Fusion: Shrimp from the Bay to the Bayou is extremely accessible to any reader who cares about the region."
– Christopher Hallowell, author of Holding Back the Sea: The Struggle on the Gulf Coast to Save America