CUT OFF (WVUE) – Due to years of rising shrimp imports, lax import testing and rising diesel fuel costs, Louisiana shrimpers say they are in dire straits and any the shrimp industry is in jeopardy because of it.
The Louisiana Shrimp Association held a state-of-the-industry meeting at Cut Off on Tuesday, aiming to rally as many shrimpers as possible to call on lawmakers to take action.
Hundreds of people filled the auditorium, frustrated by years of lawmakers’ inaction and discussing specific issues in the industry, from high levels of imported shrimp driving out local produce to sky-high diesel costs eating away at profits.
“We have coasts that are teeming with shrimp, we have processors that can’t sell shrimp, we have docks that can’t get rid of them,” said Acy Cooper, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. “We have people who just can’t get out because they can’t get rid of the shrimp, and that’s not necessary.”
Cooper said more than two billion pounds of shrimp will be imported into the United States this year, a number that has been growing year after year.
“The importers, they have so much money, they are starting to buy infrastructure, they are buying freezers, they are trying to buy processing plants. When they do that, you push us away completely,” he said. “We are on the verge of losing this industry. If we can’t come together now as an industry and try to recruit the right people to try to make a difference or make them swear to step up and help us, then next year is going to be a dire situation.
Add to that, rising diesel costs are also a thorn in the side of shrimpers, many of whom say they are barely making ends meet.
“You pay $5 a gallon for fuel, you get 95, 85, 75 cents a pound for shrimp,” Cooper said. “Economically, it doesn’t work.”
“We’re all in trouble right now. I’m about to go bankrupt, I can’t do this anymore,” said Tal Plork, another shrimper. the fisherman here can live.”
A 2019 survey by Lee Zurik found that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only tests 2% of total imported seafood each year. More than 12% of shrimp samples tested positive for hazardous drugs.
Between January 2014 and November 2018, analysis found that the FDA rejected farmed shrimp more than any other type of seafood. And when looking specifically at seafood rejected for hazardous drugs, shrimp breeding are also at the top of the list.
“I’ve seen us struggle, I’ve seen us struggle, I’ve seen the best of the Louisiana wetlands and I’ve seen it disappear before my eyes. But I’ve never seen anything like it,” Captain Kip Marquize said. “We are on the brink of extinction. When you lose us, you lose your culture, you lose your heritage, you lose your seafood, you lose everything that is Louisiana, and Louisiana might as well be Nebraska.
Marquize has been on the water for over 35 years. He said he and other shrimpers were appalled by an apparent lack of concern from state and federal lawmakers.
“We begged and pleaded for years and years for help, and we were permanently shunned, ignored, ignored,” Marquize said. “It’s not something that can be postponed, it’s something that needs to be dealt with urgently.”
In 2019, the Louisiana Legislature passed a bill that was signed into law requiring restaurants to label seafood, especially shrimp and crayfish, as imported. Cooper said this bill is a step in the right direction, but his fellow shrimpers are still being crushed by shrimp importers from Indonesia and India, among other countries.
“Don’t think just because you walk into a restaurant and order shrimp that you’re going to get our product,” he said, encouraging the public to eat local. “No one comes to Louisiana to eat shrimp from Thailand or Indonesia.”
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