WASHINGTON - April 24 - Five Louisiana fishermen and women handed out free wild-caught shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico today in Dupont Circle, a popular park in Washington, D.C., urging consumers to buy domestic shrimp to support their industry, as they struggle to survive the economic devastation from Hurricane Katrina as well as the competition from cheap farm-raised imported shrimp on the U.S. market.
The fishermen and women, plus staff members from the Wild Oceans Campaign at Food & Water Watch, passed out 1,000 pounds of free shrimp to passersby along with recipes and educational materials on shrimp. They encouraged people to hand out cards at local restaurants that make a request for domestic shrimp. The cards are available at http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/fish/pharmed-shrimp/shrimp-table-card.pdf.
Dubbed the “The Voyage of Food Independence,” the shrimpers are touring parts of the U.S. with 20,000 pounds of wild-caught shrimp, passing it out along the way to raise public awareness of their plight. Nearly 90 percent of the shrimp Americans eat is imported, and U.S. shrimpers cannot compete with the cheap prices. As a result, fishermen from the Louisiana Shrimp Association took to the roads to giveaway their shrimp, as a symbol of what they literally feel they have to do given the circumstances.
“Louisiana shrimpers bring fresh, wild-caught chemical free shrimp to showcase for your taste and to ask for some help in our rebuilding process,” said Captain George Barisich, president of the United Commercial Fishermen’s Association and board member of the St. Bernard Chapter Louisiana Shrimp Association.
According to the Louisiana Shrimp Association, the traditional economy of Gulf communities from Key West, FL, to Brownsville, TX, is collapsing. The wild shrimp fishery once supported more than 10,000 boats and hundreds of successful and vital fishery-related businesses. In 15 years, the number of boats has declined to less than 1,500 boats and a dozen active dock operations. It isn’t because there aren’t shrimp in the water. Millions of pounds of shrimp are available to catch, but without processing and distribution infrastructure – which was devastated during Hurricane Katrina - and fair prices, shrimpers have no way to get their product to the market.
“Shrimp is the most popular seafood choice in the U.S. but many consumers are eating shrimp that has been farm-raised in countries such as Vietnam or China,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Next time you go to a restaurant and order shrimp, urge them to buy shrimp from domestic sources. It’s a good way to support our domestic fishing communities.”
This week, the Senate will debate a supplemental spending bill that includes $1.1 billion to rebuild and protect Gulf of Mexico fisheries. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a bill that included $11.8 million earmarked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to repair and reconstruct its fisheries lab in Pascagoula. No money was given to fishermen along the Gulf
To learn more about shrimp, go to www.shrimpactivist.org.