Shrimp remains the most consumed seafood in the United States, returning in 2017 to its highest consumption level of 4.4 pounds per person according to NOAA Fisheries’ “Fisheries of the United States” report released today. While U.S. shrimp fisheries remain sustainable and well-managed, imported shrimp from poorly regulated countries dominate the U.S. marketplace with 92% market share according to the report.
“Other major markets have restricted imports of shrimp because of repeated findings of banned antibiotics – and even forced labor – in shrimp aquaculture. The United States remains the largest and most open market, so low-quality shrimp products that are rejected from the European Union, Japan and other major shrimp markets are likely sent here for whatever low price they can get,” explains John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, which represents shrimp fishermen and processors in eight-shrimp producing states.
Shrimp Imports Continue to Flood Marketplace
In 2017, when U.S. shrimp consumption increased three-tenths of a pound per person, shrimp import volumes and values increased compared to 2016. The quantity of shrimp imported in 2017 grew to 1.5 billion pounds, a significant 133.6 million pounds more than 2016 imports. Total shrimp import value increased 15 percent.
The United States runs a sizable trade deficit on seafood with South and East Asia based on shrimp alone. The volume of shrimp imports from South and East Asia increased from 1.01 billion in 2016 to 1.13 billion pounds in 2017, accounting for 30% and 33%, respectively, of the volume of all edible seafood imports from South and East Asia during those years. At the same time, the value of these shrimp imports increased from $4.41 billion to $5.16 billion, accounting for 46% and 48%, respectively, of the value of all edible seafood imports from Asia. In contrast, the United States exported only $2.65 billion and $3.1 billion, in 2016 and 2017, respectively, of edible seafood to South and East Asia.
India is the largest supplier accounting for roughly one out of every three pounds of shrimp imported into the U.S. market. As the U.S. Department of Commerce has confirmed in unfair trade investigations, India’s shrimp exports are fueled by government subsidies. Shrimp production in India is artificially enhanced by the government’s tolerance for the use of banned antibiotics in aquaculture. The European Union has taken significant measures to prevent Indian shrimp contaminated with banned antibiotics from entering its market and the flood of shrimp from India indicates that the contaminated product may be diverted to the United States. A recent audit by the European Commission concludes that despite all of the additional controls in place to eliminate antibiotics from shrimp exported to the European Union from India, the integrity of the system is undermined by the widespread availability of antibiotics in India. Rather than invest in infrastructure to monitor and control the use of banned antibiotics in shrimp production – as has been done in Ecuador and Thailand—the Indian government has elected to heavily subsidize shrimp production and exports, in violation of its international obligations.
“It is difficult for local shrimpers to continue the hard work of harvesting shrimp from our well-managed stocks when our foreign competitors regularly flout U.S. food safety and trade laws,” stated Williams. “But hard work is what this industry knows best and we are making significant strides to keep U.S. shrimp available to consumers.”
Local Economies Need the U.S. Shrimp Fisheries
U.S. landings of shrimp were 283.3 million pounds valued at almost $531.0 million—an increase of 12.5 million pounds (almost 5%) and $47.5 million (nearly 10%) compared with 2016, making shrimp the fourth most valuable landings in the United States according to the report.
The average ex-vessel price per pound of shrimp increased for the second consecutive year in a row to $1.87 in 2017 from $1.78 in 2016. Gulf region landings were the nation’s largest with nearly 216.8 million pounds and almost 77 percent of the national total. Louisiana led all Gulf states with 93.1 million pounds (up nearly 1% compared with 2016); followed by Texas, 75.4 million pounds (up more than 25%); Alabama, more than 24.4 million pounds (up 37%); Florida West Coast, 13.7 million pounds (up almost 33%); and Mississippi, over 10.2 million pounds (up 22%).
The landings in the South Atlantic last year were the highest in terms of both value and volume since 2000. At $71.4 million, the total value of last year’s South Atlantic catch was roughly twice what it was in 2005, 2009, and 2013.
Charts analyzing the landings data in the Fisheries of the United States reports from 2003-2017 are available at: Fisheries of the United States 2003-2017
SSA Fights for Shrimpers’ Way of Life
Despite the low prices for shrimp, the Southern Shrimp Alliance says the U.S. shrimp industry is moving in the right direction.
Several actions taken in 2018 demonstrated that Congress, President Trump, and international bodies are paying attention to the issues the Southern Shrimp Alliance raises about intensive shrimp farming in countries that fail to regulate their industries, such as India, Vietnam, and China.
In 2018, the Southern Shrimp Alliance lead efforts that resulted in:
- Expanding the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program, which works to ensure the lawful acquisition of seafood imports and to combat fraudulent activities, to include shrimp;
- Congress allocating additional funds for FDA oversight of imported seafood;
- Presenting information at training courses for trade enforcement officials;
- Winning appeals at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and Court of International Trade to keep antidumping duties on shrimp imports found in violation of trade laws;
- Inclusion of shrimp imports from China in ten percent tariffs to encourage the reform of the government of China’s policies that have resulted in the transfer and theft of intellectual property and technology; and,
- Participation in the World Health Organization’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2018, a global campaign that coincides with U.S. Antibiotics Awareness Week to raise awareness of immediate actions needed to combat the threat of antibiotic resistance, including controlling the misuse of antibiotics in aquaculture.