It has been well documented that the Vietnamese hard work has paid off in the form of larger seafood yields. “They tend to be much more intensive in their exploitation of the fisheries,” says Auburn University’s Starr. “The work regime, as developed in Vietnam, has worked well along the Gulf Coast. “You don’t know how much credit to give it,” he says, “but they seem to know a good place to fish or when it’s a good day. They’re savvy at it. They’re used to spending a long time on the water. Some of these people have been members of fishing families in Vietnam for as long as they can recall.” FOR MANY AMERICAN fishermen, the good fortune of the Vietnamese doesn’t sit well. “This bay had been like money in the bank before the Vietnamese resettled here,” complains J. B. Stahl, a Seabrook city councilman and retired fisherman who lobbies for the industry. “A fisherman could go out and get a drag or two whenever he needed money. But if he didn’t want to, he didn’t have to. Now, the Caucasian fisherman has to work every day just to keep the status quo.” Stahl reeled off a list of abuses in which, he alleges, the Vietnamese commonly engage. “They fish at night, which is illegal. They exceed the pound limit. They saturated the bay with nets. They raped the bay.” Officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, however, declined to single out the Vietnamese fishermen as major lawbreakers. “I don’t have any figures broken down,” says David Palmer, the agency’s director of field operations. “We issue 40,000 tickets a year all over the state. The Vietnamese are only a tiny fraction of those. To my knowledge they pay their fines and take care of business with the courts.” Father Hoang says that many Vietnamese got into trouble at first because they were unfamiliar with the laws. “Why did we violate the law? Because we are not educated and don’t speak English. So I invited the Parks and Wildlife Department to have special classes. I helped explain the rules to them.” The Texas agency, moreover, issues a handbook of its licensing requirements and other rules in a Vietnamese translation. Although the larger yields of the Vietnamese may indeed reduce the shrimp and seafood catches of other fishermen in the Galveston Bay, there are other forces at work that contribute to harder economic times. One major cause of lower yields is surely the explosion in the sheer number of people harvesting shrimp, experts say. In 1966, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reports, there were a total of 5,000 commercial licenses held either for the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston Bay shrimping, or bait fishing. By 1976, that number had grown somewhat to 6,500. But by 1981, there were 10,140 such licenses issued a startling increase. “Basically, you’re fishing for the same shrimp population,” says Lynn Benefield, a biologist with the state agency. “You’ve got more boats cutting the same pie into more pieces.” Adds Benefield: “If you keep adding boats into the fishery, the overall catch will certainly go down per boat. Those who are efficient will stay. Others will leave if they can’t hack it.” Kemah’s police chief insists that hardworking Americans are still catching their fair share of the total harvest. “Your true fisherman, the good fisherman, couldn’t care less about the Vietnamese,” he insists. “It’s the fly-by-night fishermen who just want to do enough work to pay for their entertainment who are the agitators.” 0 NE MAJOR instigator of antiVietnamese feeling in the community in Eugene Fisher, 37, who holds the lofty position of Grand Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan. At 5foot-nine and 250 pounds, Fisher is known around town for his barroom brawling. Said one waitress in the community: “He’s a real redneck. He doesn’t like anyone or anything. Gene won’t drink coke because they give money to the NAACP \(the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoof his local bad-boy reputation: “They probably tell tales around here about me.” Fisher was interviewed fresh from a Eugene Fisher round of press conferences in Austin where he was accompanied by shotguntoting bodyguards. But at the Dutch Kettle, a cafe in town and his favorite Kemah haunt, his bodyguards, as he termed them, were toothpick-chewing, coffee-drinking companions. An interview with Fisher is bound to yield up an endless, invective-filled diatribe against politicians \(“wimps” is one of the few printable things he says of Yankees, black leaders \(especially grants, and, of course, the Vietnamese. He does not say that much about his own background, but a few facts do emerge. In 1962, at the ripe age of 17, Fisher was a 10th-grade dropout from nearby Clear Creek High School \(“I was always a rebel; I didn’t like school, didn’t and cannon fodder for the U.S. Marine Corps. “I was the first person from this area to go to Vietnam,” he says. “I was shot twice in the side, twice in the leg, and once in the stomach.” When he came home, it was to a nation that, he says, threw “chicken blood” on its Vietnam veterans. His police record tells something of how he spent the years back in the U.S.: four assault charges one conviction; one larceny conviction; one stolen vehicle conviction; one embezzlement conviction; and three burglary convictions. He remains an angry man, harboring bitterness over the war. “We didn’t lose the war. The Vietnamese lost the war. We didn’t run off and leave them with a stick. They had the finest air force money could buy. They had advanced weapons and stores of ammunition.” And he is bitterly angry at the political leaders who, he believes, betrayed him. “After coming back from Vietnam, I believed so much in my government. I didn’t believe my senators and congressmen had put a rifle in my hand and sent me to Vietnam to make a fool out of me.” He owned a fishing boat for a time, but, he says with a hurt laugh, the $12,000 bank loan couldn’t be met and he had to give up the vessel. Now, he says, displaying a thick wad of greenbacks, he earns money transporting fish to restaurants in Austin and Dallas. But it is the Klan-related work that is his highest priority. The leadership role and the Klan’s philosophy have given his life direction, given him an outlet for his anger. After three unsuccessful marriages, he devotes long hours to the organization. Fisher’s fierce denunciations of “communists who are taking over,” interestingly enough were echoed most strongly by Father Hoang, who was interviewed at St. Mary’s Church rectory in nearby Texas City. “I was condemned to die by the communists,” the priest recalled Of the turbulent, violence-ridden years in Vietnam where he grew up and lived until he escaped in 1975. “Anyone who would 8 SEPTEMBER 17, 1982
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