Lynn Walker, owner of Shrimp Hut, was born and raised into the Houston seafood business. Shrimping has been a Walker family affair since 1910, when Lynn’s grandfather opened a bait shop on the Houston ship channel. Lynn didn’t have much interest in the business as a child, though he appeared a natural, selling his first shrimp at eight years old!
Lynn has come a long way from the days of sweeping floors and peeling shrimp at the family bait shop. About 13 years ago, Lynn started his home delivery service, which evolved into the wholesale business, Shrimp Hut.
Shrimp Hut is known as a mobile seafood service, selling shrimp only locally in Houston, mostly to restaurants in the Heights area. He is everything we love about the local movement – he does business with his friends and makes friends with his business. Lynn sources his shrimp from a friend in Angleton, with a business called J&J Packing Co. The cycle of local business around Shrimp Hut is beautiful.
As long as Lynn has been in the business, he has been right in the middle of breaking shrimp-news – with all his knowledge, he’s the guy we want to go to for our information on the oil spill. So, that’s what we did. We hounded Lynn about his industry’s past, present, and future. Warning, his answers are shockingly reassuring:
On the first day of oil spill news, Lynn thought, as many of us, “this is going to be a disaster.” He knew if the spill wasn’t contained, the northern half of the Gulf would be a dead zone. This seems to be the only moment that the spill had affected Lynn’s business, raising prices of shrimp that were scarce. There were less shrimp for Lynn to buy at this time, which brought the prices up – “all the fishers were out in boats being paid too good to scrape oil, so they weren’t shrimping!”
As the shrimpers began to pick back up, so did sales. Today, Lynn sees little change in his business and sales. His sales this month were about the same as last month and the month before that. He tells us his friends in the industry are all doing well too. So, what’s with all the questions around Gulf seafood?
Lynn says that it is just going to take time to change some of the public’s fear over oil-affected shrimp. “This happened in ’79 off the coast of Mexico, and we had great fishing seasons in the years after that.” In fact, today, Lynn hasn’t spoken to anyone who has much fear of Gulf shrimp, and those who do “will just have to wait it out.”
In 1979 Exxon’s infamous Ixtoc oil spill spewed for 237 days and poured 3 million barrels (126 million gallons) of oil into the Southern Gulf of Mexico, which ended up reaching all the way to the Texas shore. Though there has been considerable debate on the amount of oil spilled in the Gulf this time around, the best estimates are upwards of 94 million gallons.
As we all know, BP has sprayed millions of gallons of controversial dispersant in the Gulf to clean up all that mess. So, what about that dispersant? That has to be dangerous, right? The EPA had told BP to cut their use of the dispersant, Corexit, since the human and animal reaction to its chemicals are unknown. According to BP, 1.8 million gallons of Corexit were used in the Gulf. Questions remain about how these dangerous and toxic chemicals might affect fish and shrimp caught from the Gulf waters.
Lynn tells us he’s not worried about the shrimp – “Shrimp are in the lower end of the food chain. Once it moves through the plankton, to the shrimp…they’re pretty good at destroying hydrocarbons.” What Lynn says people need to be more worried about is farm-raised shrimp. These shrimp are packed with “antibiotics, growth hormones and things you really don’t want to put in your body…always ask where your shrimp came from, and if it’s the Gulf, you’re way better off than eating farm-raised.”
If it all just takes time, we wonder what his outlook is on the future. Lynn is positive about the future of shrimp in the Gulf. “You’ve got to think positive and see that future in your life…all the guys are expecting a good year – and the next.” We wish everyone who has doubts about Gulf shrimp could talk to someone like Lynn.
After our reassuring conversation with Lynn Walker – Texas (Shrimp) Ranger, we’re sold on the safety of Gulf seafood. Now, everyone, raise up your OMPP shrimp burgers and toast to the future of Gulf shrimp!