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Florida Shrimp Industry Analysis Essay

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What if it were logical and profitable to merge two of the fastest growing shrimp industries in the United States today? That is exactly the idea behind “bait shrimp production”, the latest development in the combined evolution of the valuable live bait shrimp industry and the continual growth arena of aquaculture. Farm-raised bait shrimp is a very appropriate combination of the two businesses; both have a historical development in Florida for over forty years.

Florida has been proclaimed the “Fishing Capital of the World” with its 1,197 statute miles of coastline hosting 3.

4 million anglers annually. The statistics regarding the recreational fishing industry in Florida are astounding. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reports:

•The economic value of recreational fishing to Florida is $7.0 billion and supports 75,000 jobs. •Recreational fishing is the second largest sports industry in Florida with over 700 world-record fish caught. Live bait shrimp is the nucleus around which evolves Florida’s saltwater sport and recreational fishing. It is the preferred bait for fishing near shore species such as snook, sea trout, redfish, snapper, cobia and mackerel.

The business of catching and supplying live bait shrimp began with a few individuals supplying themselves, and a few bait shops in the 1950’s to becoming a multi-million dollar industry with exports throughout the Southeast United States. This growth is a testimony to the pre-eminence of shrimp as the most popular live bait among saltwater anglers in Southeast United States.

The message is clear — the recreational/sport fishing industry and live bait shrimp are well established in Florida. And their popularity is growing amongst the14 million people (75% living within 10 miles of the coast) and the 40 million tourists who visit each year.

Commercial fishermen currently supplying 100% of the bait shrimp market experiences regulatory restrictions, seasonal declines in wild stocks, and unreliable labor causing unpredictable shortages and as such are unable to meet the increase in the market demands. The FWC and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer service reports: •As the tourist and recreational fishing industry continues to increase in Florida so will the bait shrimp business. •Fishermen love to use live bait shrimp and retailers are always running out of bait before they run out of customers. •The retailer wants consistent deliveries of bait shrimp in numbers that will keep the customers walking through the door of their shop •Although the fishing effort has increased 50% over the past ten years, the live bait harvesters cannot meet the market demands.

This increase in demand without an increase in supplies has resulted in an extremely high dollar value of live bait. This increase in demand, low supply and high dollar value has attracted the attention of shrimp producers.

Now for the other half of the combination — shrimp aquaculture. As the demand for live bait shrimp has expanded without an increase in supplies, the inevitable has begun to take place — culturing Florida’s endemic penaeids for bait size shrimp using hatchery and production technologies developed for other economically important penaeids.

Wholesale distributors cannot get adequate supply of bait shrimp certain times; retailers are forced to accept inaccurate counts and variable sizes of wild bait, which they will loose almost 30% in mortalities during the course of the day. Retailers cannot consistently provide the customer with the desired size and often sell “mixes”. Fishermen are reliant on the seasonal migration, molting periods and life cycles of the natural population; as such they cannot guarantee quality or volume.

Shrimp spawn in April/May releasing eggs that move with the tides and currents into estuaries, where they spend their postlarval and juvenile stages before migrating back to deeper waters. Bait size shrimp are virtually impossible to harvest in June, July, and August due to this natural life cycle; and are in short supply September through December. It is the winter months January through April that suppliers, wholesalers and retailers can experience marketable size bait shrimp. However, even during this time period, harvesting of small animals causes immediate stress and holding them in “live” haul tanks for long distance deliveries results in high mortalities.

Enter the growth industry, Aquaculture, dedicated to providing consumers what they need – healthy, quality seafood and aquatic products at market prices. The inability of the fishermen to provide year round live bait shrimp, there is a significant gap supplies. From this lack of product will grow the combination of live bait shrimp and aquaculture— Live Bait, Inc.

Live Bait, Inc. will produce bait shrimp is at high densities in enclosed facilities equipped with multi-phase, recirculating systems. Bait size shrimp will be cultured to three variable sizes, (8,10, and 12 grams) to provide the retailer with desired “mixes”. Bait shrimp production facilities, unlike shrimp boats, can be located through out Florida in high value areas that support a large volume of recreational fishing and tourism. Live Bait, Inc. will focus on providing existing market channels with high quality bait at market prices, in a consistent and reliable manner through out the year.

The first bait shrimp production facility is said to have been an offshoot of a Texas A&M project developing production systems for Gulf of Mexico endemic shrimp. The species of choice for this area are brown shrimp (F. aztecus) and it is believed that the company, although small scale, Lone Star Fishery, is experiencing continued success. There is a tremendous interest amongst fishermen and wholesale dealers in developing culture systems for bait shrimp. However, once they realize the capital investment and risk involved, they become interested in buying from Live Bait, Inc.

The market for live bait shrimp is continuing to grow, especially during the summer when local residents and tourists target inshore species. This year-round demand, unreliable supplies and high dollar value ensures a continued market for this commodity.

Industry Participants

There are several groups of industry participants, which must come together in order for Live Bait, Inc. to function well.

1.Wholesale Dealers. Everything begins and ends with this customer. Wholesale distributors have established marketing channels and will be buying directly from the production centers. Each production center must first identify the base of the wholesaler from which the high volume, high value business will be drawn. Their attitudes, needs and abilities must be the genesis of each decision in designing the size and location of production facilities.

2.The Nuclear Breeding Center. For long-term sustainable production and the Florida Department of Aquaculture’s support and sanctions; it is imperative that a breeding program for F. duorarum be established from the beginning. Experience has proven the necessity of SPF stocks in minimizing the incidents of diseases and animal stress from high density, mass production.

3.. For Live Bait, Inc to produce, cost-effective, quality bait shrimp it needs outstanding seedstock. Large numbers of seedstock at affordable prices will needed, on a weekly basis in order to maintain the sequential stocking required by multi-phase systems.

4.Management/Production Team. This is the triangulation point where it all comes together. The team must identify the best locations; design the most cost effective facilities and production systems, produce shrimp using state-of-the-science technologies to provide high quality bait shrimp available for daily pickup.

Who are the individuals or groups that are likely customers of farm raised live bait shrimp? Fortunately, there are some marketing surveys that have been conducted Florida state agencies, the US Department of Commerce and Mariculture, Inc. that can provide some answers even in this new concept. The target market for Live Bait, Inc. is the wholesale dealer/distributor, who currently is supplied 100% by the bait shrimp fishery.

Currently, wholesale dealers either buy dockside from shrimpers and/or they use their own boats. As such they are located within close proximities of bait shrimping boats and not necessarily in the high value tourist areas. Each GLB’s locations will develop its facility, production numbers, sizes and services around the target audience –wholesalers. GLB will target several distinct groups:

1.Wholesalers, which fit the basic demographic characteristics of supplying retailers from great distances. These will be wholesalers who either buy dockside from shrimpers and/or they use their own boats. As such they are located within close proximities of bait shrimping boats, which are in five major regions: Hernando (Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas and Manatee) with 47% of total bait shrimp landings; Pine Island (Lee County) with 33% of total bait shrimp landings, Biscayne Bay (Dade and Monroe Counties) with 18% of total bait shrimp landings and Jacksonville (Fernandina Beach) with 2% total bait shrimp landings. Wholesalers will truck live bait shrimp 220 miles from Homosassa to Naples or from Miami, which is 107 miles. Wholesalers from these regions supplying the North-Central East Coast, the Keys and Panhandle will be targeted.

2.Wholesalers who supply retailers dealing in large volumes. For example marinas that sell 275,000 – 300,000 or more bait per day during the winter months and 65,000 – 80,000 per day during the summer months. Volume in these areas severely restricted due short supplies and distance from suppliers. Retailers claim they could sell up to 300% more, if the supply were available. Wholesalers supplying large marinas, high-end fishing piers located in metropolitan areas, and retail bait/tackle stores that promote popular sport fishing tournaments will be targeted.

3.Wholesalers who supply high dollar bait to retailers located in areas support high value recreational/sport fishing and tourism. Wholesale prices for live bait vary considerably with location. For example prices in Pine Island will run $30/1,000 shrimp while in Marco Island and Naples, which is just south of Pine Island, will have prices up to $70/1,000. Wholesalers who supply retailers who are willing to pay the higher market price will be targeted.

4. Wholesalers who are receptive of farm-raised bait and will promote the product among retailers. Currently, an overwhelming majority of retailers accept the idea of farm-raised bait. Most are willing to pay between 50-100% above current prices for farm raised bait as long as the supply is consistent and reliable. Wholesalers who are willing to promote our product, pay premium prices for premium farm raised bait shrimp will be targeted.

5.Wholesalers who are either currently exporting to neighboring states, or who would like to export to other states. Florida Bait shrimp wholesalers export live bait nine months out of the year to different neighboring states. Currently they supply 60% of the Alabama Market, 20% of the South Carolina and 50% of the Georgia market. Wholesalers exporting to other states will be targeted.

6.Bait Brokers dealing in frozen bait are currently importing small frozen shrimp that are severely damaged from outside the United States. The shrimp exotic species, which may or may not be infected with viral diseases. These brokers currently cannot meet the needs of their large contracts such as those with Wal-Mart and Publix. Process them, as most of the brokers also have processing plants.

7.Wholesalers who are supplying retailers whose customers would prefer farm raised bait over wild bait for ecological and environmental reasons.

These six primary target groups provide fertile ground for GLB to become a profitable operation within the first year of production. In fact, GLB will become the top producer of farm-raised bait for Florida and the entire southeast coastal corridors.

Live Bait, Inc. production centers will be established in key locations through out Florida. The marinas, retail bait shops, bait and tackle shops within a thirty-mile radius will match the demographic target profile – high volume, high market price, pro-farm raised bait, easy assess to interstate highways and are being supplied by wholesalers from great distances.

A marketing survey conducted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s, Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing has documented annual landings (harvests), volumes of bait sold by retailers, wholesale/retail prices, peak seasonal demands and months of supply shortages.

Major harvesting areas are divided Hernando Regions (Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas and Manatee) with 47% of total bait shrimp landings; Pine Island (Lee County) with 33% of total bait shrimp landings, Biscayne Bay (Dade and Monroe Counties) with 18% of total bait shrimp landings and Jacksonville (Fernandina Beach) with 2% total bait shrimp landings.

Annual Landings report to Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by licensed bait shrimpers in 2000 was 2.46 million pounds (246 million bait size shrimp using a 100/1b count). This is 50% above the reported landings for 1991 of 1.23 million pounds 123 million bait size shrimp using a 100/lb count). Fishery managers feel the harvest numbers are under-reported on trip tickets. And since live bait shrimp is a cash industry sales are not accurately reported. Also not all shrimp caught as live bait is sold as live bait, there are high mortality rates associated with harvesting, holding and transporting. Larger shrimp will often be culled and sold as food. It is likely that the farm production needed to supply current markets will have to be 50% above reported landings to approximately 3.69 million pounds (369 million bait size shrimp using a 100/lb count).

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