Scarlet letter for shrimp? Aquarium might be critical of catch

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Louisiana seafood dealers and some fishermen are holding their breath as a major player in environmental circles comes closer to making a critical decision on its seafood recommendations.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, whose seafood buy list affects decisions made by environmentally conscious chain operations like Whole Foods, is re-evaluating its stand on shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic, for its Seafood Watch program.

The aquarium estimates that 13,000 or more retail outlets across the country pay close attention to their buy/don’t buy recommendations.

In the case of Gulf of Mexico shrimp, the aquarium is interested in the failure of Louisiana and other states to enforce the use of turtle excluder devices and fish excluder devices on their inshore fleets.

Aquarium spokesman Ken Peterson said that all available information is used for the recommendations, which are also available on a smart phone application that can be downloaded and used by consumers.

“We are recognized as the most science-based source for consumer information,” Peterson said.

For that reason, the recommendations are sometimes broken down into categories or components of a fishery. For example, some specific pond-raised shrimp from farms in Asia is recommended because of its environmentally safe equipment, while other shrimp from the same region is not.

In the case of Louisiana and other southern states, shrimp from big boats – which are required to use turtle excluders in federal waters – might make the grade. Smaller boats, which generally work inshore, might not.

But if Peterson has any idea of how the wind is blowing on the aquarium’s decisions, he’s not letting on.

Lance Nacio, a Montegut shrimper who does a lot of direct sales to outlets like Whole Foods, said he is confident his gear and his record will stand any test the Aquarium or anyone else presents.

“I am sure I can talk to my clients and they will know what we are doing,” Nacio said.

Kimberly Chauvin of the Mariah Jade Shrimp Company in Chauvin, notes that her large boats, like Nacio’s vessel, contain all required equipment.

“I hope they make the distinctions and don’t damage an entire fishery because of something that only affects one part of it,” Chauvin said.

Although Peterson said he does not know when the shrimp listing information will be made public, seafood industry insiders say Oct. 1 is the red-letter day.

“But Stephen is a great guy, and he will do a great job for the folks at LABI,” she said in an email.

Waguespack said he was approached about the job by the search firm that was hired to seek candidates for the organization.

Chance McCorkle weighs fresh shrimp for sale to consumers at the David Chauvin Seafood Company in Dulac. Gulf shrimp like these are being evaluated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium for environmental soundness in catching practices.