Posted: Jan 7, 2013 6:00 PM
Updated: Jan 7, 2013 7:23 PM
CAMERON COUNTY - Local shrimpers say the unrestricted import of shrimp is threatening their livelihood.
"We're losing people and we're losing boats because a lot of people are going broke and out of business because they can't make it," Charles Burnell said. He is with Burnell Marina Supply.
Burnell said stores in the U.S. sell foreign shrimp much cheaper than shrimp caught in U.S. waters.
According to the Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries, China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam get help from their governments to keep production costs low.
The price in 2012 for a pound of Gulf brown shrimp was $5.50. The comparable Asian white shrimp sold for $4 a pound.
"Consequently, they're just almost driving us out of business," Burnell said.
Burnell also is a member of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. The president of that group explained how these countries grow their shrimp with no health or environmental regulations. He said that increases their yields.
"Shrimp in ponds are very susceptible to diseases, so they put chemicals in these ponds to make sure diseases don't kill the product," John Williams said from Florida.
He said the practice is illegal, yet the shrimp still is sold in American markets.
"It's a little more than shocking," he said.
The coalition wants to equal the playing field. They filed a petition with the U.S. government to impose additional taxes on imports from those seven countries.
"Two-thirds of the fleet is gone out of the Gulf ... what it was 10 years ago," Burnell said.
Burnell said he will file a survey from the U.S. International Trade Commission. They are beginning to investigate the issue. The U.S. Commerce Department is scheduled to hear the results of the shrimper surveys on Jan. 17 and 18.