ContactGulf Fish, Inc.
5885 Hwy. 311
Houma, LA 70360
Quick FactsYear founded: 1999
# of employees in peak season: 22
# of family members working in the business: 3
Product type(s): U.S. Wild-Caught Brown and White Shrimp
Capacity (pounds per day): 30,000
Square footage of facilities: 24,000
Interesting fact about the business: Processes tuna fish in conjunction with shrimp
Product brand names: Gulf Treasure
Danny Babin parks his Jeep Wrangler in front of the Gulf Fish storefront and hops out wearing his favorite blue striped dress shirt ready to start his day. He walks through the glass window waiting area, past the vintage flower printed couch and into his office to see how many loads are coming in today.
“I’ve been in the business for over 30 years, and Ken spoke with me one day about wanting to open a shrimp processing facility,” says Danny Babin, general manager at Gulf Fish. “I guess the rest is history.”
Gulf Fish was founded in 1999 in Houma, Louisiana, at the same location where it stands today. The business was incorporated prior to Gulf Fish, but the company was handling only fish, not shrimp. Ken Trinh owns three sister companies in addition to Gulf Fish, including Jensen Seafood, Jensen Tuna and LL&T.
The idea of the shrimp business in terms of processing and selling is all Danny, and the idea of the layout and the job of fixing equipment is more Ken, since he has more of an engineering mind.
When Ken approached Danny about opening up a facility, they wanted something that would not flood, and would create employment for local residents. They decided on Houma because of the extensive flooding down in the parish, and the need for economic growth.
The current facility was originally an oil field warehouse prior to Gulf Fish. Ken purchased the building over the telephone without ever meeting the seller face to face. From there it evolved into what it is today.
After adding freezers, grading equipment and peeling machines in 2000, they decided to bring Jensen Tuna into the same facility. The companies are two separate corporations acting as one under the same brand Gulf Treasure.
“Jensen Tuna was always a dock facility in Dulac, Louisiana, where they unloaded tuna fish, sword fish and mahi mahi since 1988,” says David Maginnis, vice president at Jensen Tuna. “Our business is mostly whole fresh fish. All fish comes in whole and leaves whole the same day.”
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina had a great impact on the Jensen Tuna fish operation, primarily because all of the fisherman lived in New Orleans East. The fishermen’s boats were fine, but their homes and lives were damaged, putting them out of work for a while. The natural disaster didn’t hold their shrimp processing down.
“I’m probably the only shrimp processor that is also a politician,” Danny says. “I got my start a long time ago on the political side.”
Danny has been a Parish Councilman in Terrebonne Parish for 2.5 years. He is a past president of American Shrimp Processors Association (ASPA) and the Louisiana Shrimp Association (LSA). He was appointed and reappointed to the Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries Commission by two Louisiana governors and served as a chairman on the Shrimp Task Force.
Danny doesn’t quite remember why he gravitated to the shrimp side of the business. He characterizes the seafood business as an intriguing industry simply because of mother nature. Of course there are a lot more pond-raised products available now which don’t have to contend with as many variables. But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the wild-caught shrimp business, Danny says part of it is a gut feeling.
Says Babin, “You can keep meticulous records every year on what you did, and then a cold front will come through and throw all of that out the window.”
Gulf Fish blast freezes their products in 5-pound boxes. They hope to expand in the packaging area to incorporate a retail pack. With shrimp having 80-85 percent moisture, they prefer the “hands on” techniques over modern technology but are keeping an open mind.
Traceability is something that Gulf Fish takes pride in. It is very important for consumers to know where their product is coming from. Since processors unload boats from dealers who may be getting their product from different areas in the Gulf of Mexico, it makes it hard for processors to label something as just Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama Wild Caught shrimp.
Every manufacturing facility has a byproduct of waste, and Gulf Fish is working to find an effective way to dispose it.. They take their waste to the parish landfill every day, but that gets to be cumbersome and expensive. They have had a number of people who have wanted to buy the product for recycling, and a couple of their ideas have shown some promise. At one point in time, Gulf Fish made fish meal out of their waste, and they feel they can improve in this area not only to help their bottom line, but to help the environment. Babin says they may not make money off of the recycling itself, but just not having the disposal will save money and possibly create new industry at the same time.
Gulf Fish’s state of the art grading, peeling and packaging equipment combined with their dock in Dulac, Louisiana, located just minutes from the Gulf of Mexico enables them to be a premier provider of fresh wild caught premium domestic shrimp. Their “Gulf Treasure” line includes white and brown, headless and peeled shrimp, which are processed in their 24,000 square foot facility. Their primary shrimp customers are food service distributors east of the Mississippi River.
They feel that their customers choose Gulf Fish because of their hands on quality. Gulf Fish is working tirelessly to build both the shrimp and the tuna businesses.
“There’s always a political side to every business,” Danny says. “It’s much better to be involved and help formulate the rules and regulations. It might not always go your way, but at least you have a voice.”
Danny looks down at his watch and realizes it is time for the Terrebonne Parish Council meeting. He puts his Jeep in reverse, and off he goes waving at familiar faces along the way.