BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The International Trade Commission has turned down a request from the Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries to place higher tariffs on imported shrimp from several foreign countries. This could be considered a major setback for the Gulf shrimping industry.
American shrimpers have claimed for years that the foreign shrimp are being dumped here for less than the actual cost, undercutting U.S. harvested shrimp.
At Golden Gulf Packing Company, gulf shrimp roll down the racks. The vote by the International Trade Commission may mean these machines will be silenced one day.
Richard Gollott who heads up the operation said, "I think eventually, maybe not right away quickly, but eventually this could be the demise of the shrimp industry. We've told the international trade commission that, that it meant jobs, American jobs," said Richard Gollott who heads up the operation."
The Americans thought they presented a strong case to the commission. They were wrong.
"It was a total shock to us on Friday when we learned that we lost the case. It was a total shock to us," said Mark Mavar who is also a seafood processor.
The feeling of desperation in the gulf industry is widespread.
"I think it's going to be pretty devastating," explained Rudy Lesso, who is also a processor. "These guys are going to come back into this country with cheap shrimp again for the next years. For the last three or four years it's been very cheap."
For the people who man the boats, this is just more bad news they don't need.
"It's very tough. There aren't many shrimp out there right now, and now the prices are fixing to fall. It's fixing to get bad for a bunch of shrimpers," said Jerome Williamson, a shrimp boat captain.
In a bit of bitter irony, the vote that rejected the higher tariffs on imported shrimp may simply be a matter of bad timing. The American shrimping industry and the Gulf states shrimping industry actually had a pretty decent year this year, unlike years past, according to Gollott.
"What they said was you're not being injured right now, which is true. But as soon as all these people come back, it will come back and they'll start dumping shrimp again and it will hurt our industry," said Gollott.
Lesso said American shrimpers can appeal the ruling, but not right now.
"They didn't give us a reason why they turned the vote back against us. We have to wait two or three more weeks until that report comes out and then we can take a look at the situation," said Lesso.
It's a situation that has quickly gone from bad to worse.
The five countries involved in the trade battle with the U.S. are Vietnam, Ecuador, China, India, and Malaysia.