For Future's Sake, Investing in Premium Shrimp

Friday, April 15, 2011

By Veronica Del Bianco

It’s a humid, overcast morning as boats arrive at the dock of the Mariah Jade Shrimp Company, named after the daughter of owners Kim and David Chauvin.

Their family business is located in their own back yard, on the bayou, in Chauvin, Louisiana. As fourth-generation shrimpers, they hope one day a fifth generation will be able to make a livelihood off the Gulf waters.

So the Chauvins are banking their future — and their children’s future — on Premium Wild Louisiana Shrimp.

Premium shrimp, like all Louisiana Wild Shrimp, are harvested on boats that use turtle excluder devices and by-catch reduction devices to mitigate their effect on the fisheries and the entire Gulf ecosystem.

To be called premium, these Louisiana Wild Shrimp are hand-culled and hand-graded, either on the dock or at the dock’s processing plant. If completed on the boat, the fisherman gets an even better price for his catch. More often, though, culling is done at the processing plant.

“For us, it’s just a matter of good shrimping practices,” says Chauvin. “How the shrimp is caught, how it’s processed, how it is sold and consumed.

“For the customer, it means they’re getting the absolute best of the best,” says Chauvin. “That’s the kind of taste and quality I’m trying to bring to the consumer, so they can know what we’re raving about.”

Last April, just five days before the BP oil spill, the Chauvins completed work on their latest addition — a processing plant for hand-peeling Premium Wild Louisiana Shrimp. But, because demand for premium shrimp is down, the Chauvins are concerned about the price such shrimp will fetch in the marketplace. So they’ve put the hand-peeling project on hold.

“I’m going to have to check out what’s going on this year,” says Chauvin. “A lot is going to depend upon perception and what our customers are wanting. We’ll wait out the May season and then be ready for the August season, if it comes to pass.”

Despite the year’s setbacks, she hasn’t lost sight of the overall vision she and her husband set for their business, back in 2002. They plan to continue to invest in their company and, this spring, they’ll open another dock at a second location.

She laughs, “You know, it’s one of those things where your darned if you do, darned if you don’t. You almost need to be prepared for anything.”