BAYOU LA BATRE, Alabama – Long before America slid into recession in late 2007, shrimp fishermen here on the Gulf Coast had been struggling to make a living.

“Twenty-odd years ago, if a shrimp boat came in with 100 boxes of shrimp, they’d consider that a good catch,” said Avery Bates, vice president of the Organized Seafood Association of Alabama (OSAA). “Now if you come in with 400 you’re barely scraping by.”

The main problem that shrimpers down here say they face is farm-raised shrimp imported from countries like Vietnam or China, or government-subsidized shrimp from Mexico.

“We take it right on the nose,” Bates said. “A lot of our boats have went right out of business.”

Bates said that back in the 1980s, some 4,500 U.S. shrimp boats trawled the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Now, that number is down to 1,200 and dwindling fast.