Chinese shrimping village

Historical Essay

by Chris Carlsson (with a hat tip to David Gallagher)

White-buyers-at-HP-shrimp-dock 2837.jpg

White buyers peruse fresh shrimp on sale at the docks along India Basin in Hunter's Point, early 1930s.

Photo: China Camp State Park

Chinese-shrimpers hb0489n3gc-FID4.jpg

Chinese shrimpers on San Francisco Bay, c. 1938

Photo: Online Library of California

Health dept closes shrimp village April 30 1939 wnp28.0777.jpg

The Chinese shrimping camp along the shores of India Basin on Hunter's Point just before its destruction in 1939.

Photo: courtesy private collector at OpenSFHistory

A community of Chinese shrimp fishermen made their home along the shores of India Basin on Hunter's Point until 1939, when the U.S. Navy took over the land under eminent domain for the Naval Shipyard. The Health Department came in and burned the shacks and docks that once provided a small village of fishermen and their families a steady living in the abundant shrimp harvest from the San Francisco Bay.

Health dept burns Chinese shrimping village wnp28.0778.jpg

Health Department burns Chinese shrimping village along shores of India Basin at Hunter's Point, April 20, 1939.

Photo: courtesy private collector at OpenSFHistory

From the beginnings of San Francisco's urban growth, Chinese immigrants established fishing villages around the Bay. The southern shores of San Francisco at Hunter's Point was one, but there were others too, especially at China Camp (Point San Pedro) in Marin County and directly east across the Bay at Point Pinole near Richmond. This map shows where they were in the 1880s:

Chinese-fishing-villages-1880s 2829.jpg

Map: China Camp State Park

The Chinese fishermen sailed their redwood fishing boats to the mudflats. They dropped sail and set the large, triangular nets by staking them into the mud in long lines. The mouths of the nets were set open to the oncoming tide to catch shrimp swept along by the current. As the tide slackened, the fishermen raised nets and dumped the live shrimp into large baskets that were then stored in the boat’s hold. The nets were reset in the opposite direction for the next tidal cycle. After two tidal cycles, or about twelve hours, the holds were full and the fishermen returned to camp to process the catch.


Collage depicting a Chinese shrimping village at Rincon Point by Satty, from "Visions of Frisco" edited by Walter Medeiros, Regent Press 2007

Chinese shrimp worker c 1910 wnp4.1290.jpg

Chinese shrimper, c. 1910.

Photos: courtesy private collector at OpenSFHistory

Chinese shrimper sweeping shrimp c 1910 wnp4.1291.jpg

Sweeping shrimp, c. 1910.

Shrimp-baskets-and-fisherfolk 2836.jpg

Processing shrimp for shipment to China was a big part of the business.

Photo: China Camp State Park

Hunter's Point was home to twelve different shrimp companies, each quite small (504 nets, 16 boats, 53 men working altogether), but along with shrimpers on other shores of the Bay, part of an incredibly productive shrimp fishery in the San Francisco Bay during 1920s. Here are the twelve companies at Hunter's Point, numbered to correspond to the location along the shore of India Basin in the map below:

1. Leuong Shui Shrimp Company
2. City Shrimp Company
3. Quong Fat Shrimp Company
4. Quong Song Shrimp Company
5. California Shrimp Company
6. Golden West Shrimp Company
7. Yip Fook Shrimp Company
8. See Hop Wo Shrimp Company
9. George Shrimp Company
10. Golden Gate Shrimp Company
11. Wing Hing Wo Shrimp Company
12. Quong Duck Chong Company

HP-shrimp-camps-map-orig 2832.jpg

For full map and extensive description of shrimping visit the Division of Fish and Game of California document on the California Shrimp Industry.'

Here are the statistics of San Francisco Bay shrimp production from 1915-1930, in the original Fish & Game table below:

Fish-and-Game-Table-4-data-related-to-shrimp-catch-1915-1930 2835.jpg

Image: China Camp State Park

SF-Bay-Shrimp-Junks-explanation-and-display 2839.jpg

Image: China Camp State Park


In 1939 the Health Department burned the remaining structures to make way for the Navy.

Photo: Private Collection, San Francisco, CA


No shrimp today wnp28.0779.jpg

'No Shrimp Today' sign after last days of shrimp sales at Hunter's Point camp, April 1939.

Photos: courtesy private collector at OpenSFHistory


Chinese-fishermen-in-SF-Bay-Harpers-1875 hb1j49n4jt-FID4.jpg

Chinese fishermen in San Francisco Bay, 1875.

Image: Harper's Magazine

Tours-food.gif Continue Food Tour

Prev. Document Next Document