2015-01-21 / Front Page

Port Mansfield fish house owner claims unfair competition


Hai Phuong Hai Phuong A Port Mansfield resident who owns the only fish house in this fishing and retirement community claims to face an unfair competition from another seafood buyer.

Hai Phuong, a 66-year-old business woman originally from Vietnam, says she opened the fish house in 2001 called Lucky Wholesale Seafood.

She generally identifies herself as Hai so for the purpose of this story this reporter will use her first name instead of her last on second reference.

Hai went about her business of buying fish, mostly black drum, caught locally and from Mexico.

But in the last three or four years, she said a seafood buyer from Rivera started showing up, buying fish from the nearly half a dozen commercial fishermen.

But what is upsetting her so much is the business practice of her competitor.

“I lease land from the (Port Mansfield) Navigation District,” she said in an interview. “I have a house here, a warehouse and even a dock. I pay taxes just like anyone else here.”

FISHERMEN lined up in front of a truck from Rivera to deliver their fish on a parking lot off Highway 186. FISHERMEN lined up in front of a truck from Rivera to deliver their fish on a parking lot off Highway 186. Because the port is geopolitical entity of the State of Texas, the navigation district can’t sell land but it leases land to anyone providing it gets the approval of the navigation district board of directors.

Therefore, a lessee pays taxes on the improvements made to the land.

Hai said she is never behind with her taxes and is a law abiding citizen.

She said she has been paying about $10,000 a year to run the fish house. That includes everything required to operate such a business - water, electricity, ice, maintenance and fixing the parking lot with caliche.

However, after the seafood buyer starting showing up she found that it has been doing business in a very unconventional way.

Hai discovered that the buyer buys black drum on a parking lot the Texas Department of Transportation built just to the side of the socalled Five Mile Bridge - named so because that is the distance from the small span to the port.

“I want to know who built that,” she said, about the parking lot. “I don’t think that is fair?”

Hai said she doesn’t have a grudge against the fishermen, but is adamantly opposed to the buyer from Rivera.

Hai said that as many as four fish houses used to operate at the port when she came here from the Houston area in 1991.

Today, her Lucky fish house is the only one left.

She said she buys anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 pounds of black drum a year.

She then sells the fish to buyers from Houston, Dallas and San Antonio and from other cities as well.

Hai said the Rivera buyer started showing up in 2012, dealing with fishermen from the parking lot of Texas Highway 186.

“Is that fair competition,? she said. “I don’t’ think so. I pay a lot of money to run my business. They don’t pay anything.”

Marsh Steussy, a local commercial fisherman, said they began selling black drum to the Rivera buyer because Hai told them one day she wasn’t buying fish from them anymore.

“This is our livelihood,” he said. “We can sell fish to whomever buys it from us.”

But Hai insists she is not against the fishermen.

“I am not complaining about them,” she said. “ I am complaining about the buyer. They don’t pay a dime like I do.”

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