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Food & Water Watch Supports Louisiana Shrimpers’ Call for Fair Prices on Domestic Shrimp
BATON ROUGE, La. - August 31 - Organizer Christina Lizzi of Food & Water Watch spoke at a rally last week, expressing solidarity with the shrimpers. "Both consumers and fishing communities benefit when local jobs in the fishery are maintained," she said. "Consumers can get fresh wild-caught seafood, and shrimpers can earn a living.'
Many shrimpers have been on strike for several days, and have been protesting in communities across Louisiana since last week. Last Monday, shrimpers protested in Delcambre, La., against two of the region's largest seafood distributors, urging them to shut down production until they could provide higher per-pound prices for the shrimp.
"It is repulsive to think sellers might be fixing U.S. wild-caught shrimp prices to match low-priced, imported farmed shrimp, and then selling that product to consumers at up to eight times the price for massive profits," said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "We urge swift action by our government to remedy the situation, and support Gulf of Mexico shrimpers in demanding fair prices."
Local politicians have responded to the call, including Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish; Governor Bobby Jindal; and Representative Charlie Melancon. Senator David Vitter's office was represented at the protest by Malcolm Richard, regional director for Baton Rouge and Florida Parishes, who decried illegal dumping of cheap imports and the practice of "port-shopping."
Still, the shrimpers fear that action will not come soon enough. In a letter to President Obama urging action, the shrimpers explain the severity of their situation: "We have lost our last... season due to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.... A lot of us have had our homes and automobiles repossessed and we are living with other family members. We cannot afford to buy clothing, food, school supplies or other basic essentials for our children.... Sadly, if something does not change, we will not have a vessel to shrimp with next year."
Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the U.S., and demand for it continues to skyrocket. Meanwhile, prices for shrimp in the U.S. remain at all-time lows. Much of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. is farmed in places like Thailand, China, and Vietnam, where health, safety, environmental and labor laws are lax or non-existent. On arrival in the U.S., less than two percent of all imported seafood is inspected. Shrimp that does get inspected has often been refused for filth and Salmonella contamination.
"At a time when many of us are trying save money, buying the cheapest seafood available may seem to make sense. But the actual cost - to the environment, U.S. jobs, consumers' health and more - associated with imported farmed shrimp is not factored into the price," said Marianne Cufone, director of the Fish Program at Food & Water Watch. "We can't afford to ignore the results of our seafood choices."