Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Imported shrimp threatening Louisiana's seafood industry

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BATON ROUGE - In June, a fleet of fishermen stood at the capitol to plead lawmakers to save their industry from imports.

"What we're seeing is a flood of shrimp coming into the country in droves far beyond what we can consume as a country each year," Chalin Delaune, the Vice President of Tommy's Seafood, a processor of gulf caught seafood in Louisiana, said.

It worked, and the state legislature approved a bill that would give tax breaks to commercial fisherman to help them compete with foreign prices.

"The legislation is a start in the right direction," Delaune said." "It should've happened a long time ago and we believe there's a lot of work to still be done."

Tommy's Seafood recently achieved a Global Food Safety Initiative Certification. These certifications are only given to companies who routinely operate with the highest standards of quality safety and excellence in food processing.

"It takes being able to adapt and use competitive advantages like this GFSI to distinguish yourself and put a foothold in your place in the industry, and not get swallowed up by all this damage that's being done to us with imports flooding the country," Delaune said.

Delaune says the amount of fishermen in the state is dwindling due to the flooding of imports and the increased cost to operate a vessel. Despite this, shrimp prices remain the same.

"Just a couple of decades ago there were 15,000 to 20,000 commercial shrimpers, but now, we have less than 2,000 in the state today," he said.

So what's the catch? While this bill helps fishermen and processing facilities, the price continues to rise for grocery stores and restaurants that serve seafood.

"As a consumer as a business owner and a Louisiana resident, I'm torn when it comes to the product because I want my customer base to get the best quality and local product as best I canVon Raybon, owner of Pit-N-Peel said. If I'm going to save $2 a pound buying an import, then that $2 is going to go a long way as a small business."

A shrimp task force has also been created that will work to study and make recommendations regarding the funding and enforcement of imported seafood regulations.


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