Foreign shrimp market floods endanger local fisheries

SAPELO ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) – Shrimpers across the South say their industry is in crisis and are asking the government to intervene.

They want a federal disaster declaration for the fishery — after they say an influx of unregulated foreign shrimp has flooded the U.S. market.

“We’ve hit bottom and we can’t hold on any longer, because we can’t pay our bills,” said Marty Collins, a lifelong shrimp fisherman. “Basically, ‘take us home’ doesn’t take us home anymore.”

Marty Collins has been shrimping for over 50 years.

He says foreign shrimp, imported during the pandemic, has prevented him and other local shrimpers from selling what they catch.

“This place used to be full of boats and now there’s nothing,” Collins said.

Any shrimper here on Sapelo Island will tell you that the quality and taste of locally caught wild shrimp is much better than the imported farm-raised shrimp that has been kept in the refrigerator.

Bill Harris of Sapelo Shrimp Company explained, “If people knew what real fresh Georgia shrimp tasted like, they would never eat any of this frozen imported stuff again.”

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics – only 1% of imported shrimp are tested by the Food and Drug Administration.

However, the Georgia Commercial Fishermen’s Association says U.S. shrimp stocks are overwhelmed because shrimp imports have doubled over the past 10 years.

Locals say this leaves them with little work to do and little money to earn.

“As you can see these (dots on the table) should be full of shrimp. As you can see these (dots on the table) should be full of shrimp. Instead, it’s all empty,” added Paige Morrison, president of the Georgia Commercial Fishing Association.

Angel DiCaprio, a local shrimper, told me that the boats regularly go on 2-3 week fishing trips, but they haven’t left the dock in months.

“It affects all of us and our families. From the workers to the ship captains. If the captains aren’t making any money, they can’t give us jobs on the ship,” DiCaprio told News 3.

Seeking some relief, the Georgia Commercial Fishing Association wants to create a disaster relief fund for these struggling shrimpers.

They are also asking the United States to impose stronger tariffs on shrimp imports.

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