Big Shrimpin’ follows a group of longtime shrimpers from Bayou La Batre, Alabama. These guys are struggling to keep their town afloat, but they’re also fighting to save their very way of life. Spending weeks at a time away from their homes and families, they’re on a grueling, relentless quest for tiny pieces of saltwater gold: shrimp.
Presiding over the entire enterprise is Dominic Ficarino, a lifelong Bayou La Batre resident and fourth-generation shrimper who owns Dominick’s Seafood, the most successful business in town. He’s a boss with an iron fist in a velvet glove, and his crews are loyal to a fault. Dom’s employees battle each other, competing companies and harsh conditions as they toil through several months of nonstop shrimping. First, they’ll cast their nets in Texas during the most lucrative shrimping season of the year. Later, the boats head for the local waters of Louisiana and Alabama, hoping the Gulf will offer up its treasures despite the recent oil spill.
Shrimping has been a part of life in the Gulf Coast region since the 17th century, when fishermen used vertical nets up to 600 feet in diameter to scoop up the tasty crustaceans. In the early 20th century, motorized engines and the “otter trawling” method allowed shrimp boats to cover more territory and fish in deeper waters, expanding the commercial shrimping business.
Nowadays, while U.S. shrimpers harvest over half a million pounds of shrimp a year, the country imports another 200 million pounds—more than anywhere else in the world. In fact, more than 90 percent of shrimp eaten by Americans hails from abroad. It’s no wonder the shrimpers of Big Shrimpin’ feel it’s up to them to save an entire industry. But even when the pressure heats up, these boys from Alabama find playful ways to let off steam and stay as sane as possible on their journey.