Senator Cassidy Demands Protections for Whistleblower and Investigation of Claims

In a letter sent yesterday to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) demanded that Joshua Farinella, the whistleblower who came forward with claims regarding the business operations of Choice Canning Company, Inc., be guaranteed full whistleblower protections. Senator Cassidy also “urgently” called for Mr. Farinella’s allegations regarding the Indian shrimp exporter to be investigated.

Senator Cassidy explained that he “has advocated strongly for the exclusion of Indian shrimp from US markets,” and noted that he introduced the India Shrimp Tariff Act, S.2979. In that legislation, Senator Cassidy observes that India imposes a basic tariff duty on imports of shrimp into its country of 30 percent and that the Indian government imposes an additional 10 percent social welfare surcharge on imports, including shrimp. In contrast, the India Shrimp Tariff Act notes that the United States imposes no regular customs tariff on imports of shrimp and that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration samples and tests less than 0.1 percent of seafood shipments for unsafe drug residues. Under these conditions, India has developed into the single largest supplier of shrimp to the U.S. market.

In response, the India Shrimp Tariff Act proposes to impose a rate of duty that would escalate over time until it reached the same levels as those imposed by the government of India on imports of shrimp from the United States. In public comments regarding his letter, Senator Cassidy emphasized that the Outlaw Ocean Project’s report regarding Mr. Farinella’s allegations “makes clear why Indian shrimp does not belong on the shelf alongside Louisiana shrimp . . . Indian shrimp relies on forced labor and is pumped full of illegal antibiotics.”

In addition, on Monday a letter was sent to Mr. Farinella from the Ranking Member on the House Committee on Natural Resources, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), and the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM). 

In their letter, the members of Congress noted that evidence in the possession of Mr. Farinella appeared to suggest potential violations of law by the Indian shrimp exporter with respect to five different areas: (1) the importation of goods produced through forced labor, an act prohibited under 19 U.S.C. § 1307; (2) the importation of illegally obtained fish products, an act prohibited under the Lacey Act; (3) the importation of seafood accompanied by fraudulent reporting with regard to the requirements of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP), an act prohibited under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act; (4) the importation of adulterated seafood contaminated with banned veterinary drugs, an act prohibited under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; and (5) claims made under the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification program regarding ensuring “that producers are following best practices to deliver farmed seafood safely and responsibly.” The letter requested that Mr. Farinella provide documents to the House Committee on Natural Resources relevant to those issues by no later than April 2nd.

For his part, Senator Cassidy has publicly called for swift action from the Administration, observing that the “USTR needs to act to ensure American consumers are not put in harm’s way.”

“The American shrimp industry is grateful to Senator Cassidy for continuing to fearlessly and aggressively support commercial fishermen in Louisiana and across the country,” said John Williams, Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “We encourage every member of Congress who represents shrimpers, or who cares about the food put on the plates of Americans, to support the India Shrimp Tariff Act.”

Read Senator Bill Cassidy’s Statement on the Whistleblower Report Questioning Safety of Indian Shrimp here:

Review Senator Bill Cassidy’s March 20, 2024 letter to the USTR and CBP here:

Review the India Shrimp Tariff Bill, S.2979, here:

Review the House March 18, 2024 letter to Mr. Farinella here:

Watch the Outlaw Ocean Project’s “The Whistleblower and the Shrimp” (Mar. 20, 2024) here:

Read all of the Outlaw Ocean Project’s reporting regarding Mr. Farinella’s claims, India Shrimp: A Growing Goliath, here:

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