For decades, fourth-generation shrimper Diane Wilson spent long days on her boat off the Texas Gulf coast.

“It’s really hard, back-breaking work,” she says. “But I loved it.”

Now, the retiree spends her time working to protect the region’s waterways and fishing community.

She’s been fighting to stop a project to dredge the Matagorda Ship Channel, which leads to the Gulf of Mexico. The project is part of a plan to increase oil exports.

Wilson worries that the project will churn up mercury-contaminated sediment in nearby Lavaca Bay, a Superfund site. And she says it could bury oyster beds and cause more salt water to flow into the bay, which could harm shrimp habitat.

And as the need to reduce climate change grows more urgent, she says increasing oil exports is the opposite of what’s needed.

“How is this helping this when … you just seem to have created a whole new avenue to push fossil fuels?” Wilson says.

To protest the project, she did a 36-day hunger strike. And she and other activists are leading other high-publicity events to make their voices heard.

“They are not going to get these fishermen’s livelihoods, our communities, and our bays,” she says. “No more.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media