Mary Tutwiler

Jindal fishing for federal investigation into shrimp pricing

by Mary Tutwiler

Louisiana shrimpers, who voted to go on strike Tuesday to protest the low prices they are being paid dockside for their hauls, are getting some help from Gov. Bobby Jindal. Yesterday afternoon, the governor sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission requesting an investigation of possible violations of trade practices by foreign countries which may be dumping shrimp into Louisiana markets. Jindal wrote:
I am requesting a U.S. Department of Commerce investigation for possible violations of trade practices by foreign countries who may be unfairly manipulating the marketplace, to make certain that they are not harming the Louisiana shrimp industry.  It is my sincere hope that the Commerce Department will investigate these allegations and assist in the recovery of one of the state’s most important commercial fisheries, and we remain ready to assist and participate in this endeavor.

The Louisiana shrimp fishery is not only important to the social and cultural fabric of our coastal communities, but also provides the state and national economy with an important source of jobs, income, and tax revenues. A 2008 study of the economic benefits of fisheries, wildlife and boating in Louisiana prepared by Southwick Associates indicates that the Louisiana commercial shrimp fishery had a total economic impact of approximately $1.3 billion and supported 14,384 jobs and generated $91.1 million and $83.4 million to state and federal revenues, respectively.

The effects of cheap foreign shrimp imports, together with drastic reductions in dockside shrimp prices, threaten the economic sustainability of the domestic shrimp fishery in Louisiana, as well as in our neighboring states.  While continuing to recover from the effects of the devastating 2005 and 2008 hurricane seasons, Louisiana shrimp fishermen have never had greater need for protection from unfair trade practices that threaten their livelihood.
Tuesday, about 500 shrimpers gathered on the steps of the Capitol, claiming that the price they were being paid for shrimp has dropped to the lowest point in a decade. Jumbo shrimp, which run about 10-15 shrimp per pound, were selling dockside for about $3 a pound in 2001. Today, the same shrimp are selling for less than $1 a pound, shrimpers claim. As devastating as the hurricanes of 2005 were to the shrimp industry, the low pricing, say representatives of the fishermen, is even more insidious, driving long-time fishing families to sell their boats and find other work. The shrimpers voted to stop fishing to call attention to their plight. Seafood docks have closed in consolidation with the shrimpers.