Shrimp imports threaten U.S. Gulf fleet

By Paul Molyneaux.

Southern shrimpers, facing record low prices, choose to stay at the dock. 

In places like Delacroix, La., shrimp fishermen are looking at $1.10 for 16 to 20 count brown shrimp. “Last winter it was $3 a pound before the inshore season opened. We done alright. Then it started dropping $2.50, that was okay,” says local fisherman, Vernon Alfonso. “But now it’s so low we can’t go.”

I had come to Delacroix to do an At Sea story, the plan was to go out shrimping with Ricky Serigne, but the day before I arrived, Ricky’s son Ryan called. “Mr. Paul,” he says. “I know you want to go out fishing and write a story, but we got a different story for you if you want it. Why don’t you come on down, we’ll boil up some shrimp and crab, and I’ll invite some people over to explain why we’re not going fishing?”

It boils down to simple math. “It costs me $600-$700 to kick off from the dock,” says Delacroix fisherman Scotty Lopez. “Then I come in with $400 worth of shrimp. I can’t do that too many times.”

Brian Marks, a Houma, La., native and Louisiana State University professor who wrote his dissertation on global shrimp value chains, has come along to the meeting.

“I’ve seen the shrimp fishery here go through some tough times,” he says. “The dumping back in the early 2000s, Katrina, the BP oil spill, but I think this is the worst. It’s a commodity cost price squeeze,” says Marks. “The cost of doing business keeps going up and the price of shrimp going down. There are all these independent actors around the world producing shrimp for our market, flooding it and driving down prices. There’s too much shrimp coming into the country to support a decent price.”