Shrimp protest gains momentum

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - After days of protests, Gulf Coast shrimpers are finally getting some attention. Wednesday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal plans to meet with shrimpers to discuss what they call "unfair prices for their product."

Hundreds of shrimpers from both Louisiana and Mississippi are protesting in Baton Rouge. They say the shrimp market is being manipulated and imports are hurting the shrimp business on the coast.

"We're doing the best that we can to support our fisherman and give them ice and fuel in their boats and get them back out," David Luke said.

Luke owns St. Michael's Ice and Fuel Dock. He said his business is suffering because of the stagnant shrimping industry on the Gulf Coast.

"The bigger boats, they catch too much shrimp and they can't sell them because of volume," said Luke.

The big boats are parked because shrimpers can't sell their product.

"It's been all good until the last few years," Jim Norman said.

Norman is one of many South Mississippi shrimpers who joined more than 300 others in protest. Shrimpers from Plaquemines Parish and other coastal regions are calling for government action against importers.

"This is a huge industry," Norman said. "Hundreds of millions of dollars a year and effects so many people. "

Shrimpers say imports are causing prices to shrink and it's hurting their businesses. They say the selling price of shrimp remains the same, but profits for local shrimpers have almost disappeared. Right now, shrimpers at one Biloxi docking station earn about 80 cents per pound. A few years ago, they earned about four dollars a pound. That's why they want better government regulation placed on imported shrimp.

"We need some stimulus money down here or something because if we don't, China is going to own this whole country," Norman said.

Louisiana leads the country in domestic production of shrimp, but it still amounts to less than five percent of the shrimp consumed in the United States. More than 90 percent of U.S. consumption is from imports. And while the strike is putting pressure on leaders of the Gulf Coast, it's having little impact on the national market.

Gov. Jindal will meet privately Thursday with shrimpers. Shrimpers have also gained the attention of Congressman Charlie Melancon of Louisiana, who plans to call for congressional hearings into shrimp pricing.

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