LOW PRICES AND FEWER SHRIMP: SHRIMP SEASON’S START ISN’T A HAPPY ONE
By Shea Drake firstname.lastname@example.org
Shrimp season opened Monday. Observers say fishermen are caught between small catches and low prices.
There are two shrimping seasons, spring and fall. Spring is considered the brown shrimp season, which opened Monday.
“The season opened today, and the catch is way off from what it usually is,” commercial fisherman Rodney Olander said. “The grade is way smaller than what we usually open with and, as usual, the price is down on us.”
Olander has worked as a commercial fisherman for 37 years. He docks his boat at Cypremort Point State Park and shrimps in Vermillion and Cote Blanche bays. That area usually produces more white shrimp than brown.
“We’ve been sitting idle for the last six months, waiting for the season to open,” Olander said. “The season opens — there is not a lot of shrimp. The shrimp are small. And they plan on cutting the prices on us.”
Louisiana Seafood and Marketing Promotion Board member Troy Parria, formerly of Houma, agrees with Olander. Parria is also a member of the Louisiana Shrimp Association.
“The crop of the brown shrimp looks rather small, smaller than usual for this time,” Parria said.
He blames the weather. Because of recent storms and small cold fronts, a sizeable crop of shrimp have moved out of the inside waters, Parria said. It also looks like the larger white shrimp have moved out as well.
“As far as prices go, it looks similar to last year’s prices, probably some of the lowest prices on record for Louisiana shrimp,” Parria said.
Dean Blanchard Seafood Inc. is purchasing shrimp at 40 cents a pound. Blanchard Seafood is the state’s largest and last standing dock in Grand Isle.
“The prices are terrible,” Blanchard said. “I started in 1982, and I think I’m at the same price as then. The worst part of it is, I was making more money in 1982 than I’m making now. It’s a tough situation.”
The only difference then was gas cost 35 cents a gallon.
Louisiana is the No. 1 supplier of domestic shrimp in the nation, according to Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. But even Louisiana’s catch is dwarfed by the volume of imported shrimp.
“Right now, we have estimated about 93 percent of consumed seafood in the U.S. is from foreign sources, which leaves about 7 percent coming from the U.S. itself,” Parria said. “That’s some pretty bad numbers.”
Those numbers are bad for commercial fishing profits.
“There’s a lot more to shrimping than just going out here and catching them,” Olander said. “There is a business side to it.
“If you don’t manage your business right, you won’t be in this business very long. If we could get a fair price for our shrimp, we could all earn a living doing this but it’s getting so tough to do it. I mean, it’s getting extremely hard.”
The shrimp industry accounts for 15,000 jobs and an annual impact of $1.3 billion for Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Seafood and Marketing Promotions Board website.
Imported shrimp comes from massive pond farms, Olander said. Louisiana shrimp is wild-caught, which has more of a distinct flavor than the imports.
Olander recalls the import business really taking off around 2000.
“It’s gotten to be a big business,” Olander said. “It’s a massive operation. It’s hard enough to make it in this business. The competition is the import shrimp.
“We have to compete with Third World countries whose labor and expenses are so much cheaper than what ours are.”
“They’re killing us with this import shrimp,” Blanchard said. “How can we compete against slave labor? They say its free trade, but we need fair trade.”
“It’s ridiculous,” Parria said. “When you come to local markets in town, the price for shrimp is so much higher for the public, but the fisherman is getting ridiculous low prices. … It’s a horrible time to be a commercial fisherman right now.”