Shrimp biz nets concern

Members of Louisiana’s shrimp industry took their complaints to the state capitol today with planned protests during the regular legislative session’s final hours.

Among their issues are prices at the dock, which have dropped from $1.20 a pound, prior to last year’s BP oil spill, to last week’s level of 25 cents a pound.

There is the matter of public perception that the oil spill contaminated all Gulf seafood an accusation that has not been definitively substantiated while at the same time negatively impacting the $1.3 billion industry that creates more than 14,000 jobs. Before the oil spill, the economic impact of shrimp for Louisiana was $2.4 billion.

Shrimpers and their processors are still waiting for compensation of losses from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, and are angered that administrator Kenneth Feinberg has delivered only empty promises, and on occasion small individual, token one-time settlements.

Louisiana alone produces 25 percent of the nation’s seafood. Shrimpers offer 85 percent of the fishing industry’s value. At the same time, unfair imports and a lack of positive marketing have hampered the domestic shrimp business.

While a five-year high of more than 4 million pounds of shrimp was harvested during the months of January through April 2009, that yield was reduced to less than 2.5 million pounds in 2010 because of restricted fishing. Shrimpers in 2011 regained ground by hauling in nearly 3.5 million pounds during that four-month period, but with prices slashed by 95 cents per pound from one season to the next, profits on production have not kept up with expenses incurred each time a shrimp boat leaves the dock.

It has been 14 months since the BP explosion and oil spill disaster. There has been plenty of time for government and business interests to assess and provide compensation for damages.

We recognize the shrimping industry as a significant contributor to the state and nation as well as the Tri-parish region. State legislators and federally elected officials have had plenty of time to point fingers, develop arguments and deliver excuses. It is past time for them to take positive and meaningful action.

In southeast Louisiana we know there is nothing quite like a fully dressed, properly seasoned shrimp poboy. We do not want to see those that deliver the tasty crustaceans become poor boys because of conditions beyond their control.