The local shrimpers have a point

By now, the video has gone viral.

On social media last week, a video of Grand Isle businessman Dean Blanchard exploded, generating literally hundreds of thousands of clicks.

Blanchard was speaking before State Lawmakers in Baton Rouge regarding a bill floating around government that would force restaurants to label where they’re getting their shrimp — a motion which those in the industry say, if passed, would help the local seafood industry, because it would scare customers away from foreign, imported shrimp.

Those catches, seafood experts say, are loaded with antibiotics and are mostly unregulated. There are concerns of eating the product and getting sick. There is also a local angle in that by buying imports, one is hurting locals — the lifeblood of our community in the Houma-Thibodaux area.

Blanchard was witty and outspoken — he always is.

He often toed the line of appropriate behavior at a government meeting and, at times, perhaps, he even crossed it.

But his words hold merit and we believe lawmakers should take what he and others are saying seriously, making adequate changes to help local seafood, while protecting the people of Louisiana.

Imported shrimp are not regulated, and that poses a health risk to those who consume them.

This isn’t just our opinion. By now, it’s fact.

In 2015, Fox 8 TV investigative reporter Lee Zurik pointed out that 1.3 billion pounds of shrimp were imported into the United State, but the FDA only tested just more than 500 of those samples.

In the investigation, it was determined that of the samples tested, 12 percent of them were deemed unsafe because of amounts of trace drug residue found within them.

Further studies show that the imported shrimp are grown and raised on farms and that their primary feeding source is often feces of animals.

Seafood industry leaders say that when a restaurant uses depictions of Cajun culture and Cajun cuisine in marketing their restaurant, while serving a non-local product, they are tricking and deceiving customers. Combine those things with the health risks and lack of regulation, and it appears that their arguments hold weight.

Why shouldn’t customers know what they’re eating when at a place of business?

It seems fair, right?

Grocery stores have to follow those rules.

Packaged seafood products sold for retail in Louisiana stores must be labeled. Where the shrimp are caught must be identified. When the shrimp were packaged must be labeled.

This way, customers have all of the information and they can decide for themselves — which is the argument of the seafood industry: Give locals the power to decide for themselves, which product they choose to consume.

And we think that’s fair.

This bill is not about hurting local restaurants who may serve imported products. It’s not about embarrassing them or shaming them into buying the local product that may be more expensive.

It’s not about pitting one business against another.

It’s about being forthright and honest and letting locals know everything that they’re buying with their hard-earned dollar.

Louisiana seafood is safe. No studies have surfaced indicating otherwise.

But these imports have not had quite as clean a bill.

So when dealing with seafood, it’s time we give locals all of the information and let them decide for themselves.

We deserve that much. •