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FDA Gets More Money To Inspect Imported Seafood; Local Shrimpers Hope To Gain

Travis Lux
Shrimper and President of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, Acy Cooper, Jr. unloads his catch at a dock in Venice, LA on August 22, 2017. Many local shrimpers say imports have been driving down the price of Gulf shrimp.

The spending bill signed by President Trump last week will increase the amount of money for inspections of imported seafood -- a move praised by the local shrimp industry.

The United States is importing more and more shrimp from other countries, some of which is produced with antibiotics that are banned in the US. So when it’s tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s rejected.

However, only a tiny fraction of it actually gets tested -- less than one percent in 2015, according to a 2017 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Imports are often cheaper than locally sourced seafood, and Louisiana shrimpers complained for years that they can’t compete. They say if the FDA tested more shrimp, it would find that a lot of the imports are contaminated with antibiotics. More contaminated product means more rejected product, which, theoretically, could make Louisiana product more appealing.

Next year, the FDA will have $15 million reserved for inspections of imported seafood in fiscal year 2019, which is $3.1 million more than it was allotted for seafood inspections in 2017.


The increase was praised by the Southern Shrimp Alliance, which represents the interests of shrimpers across the South. The FDA did not immediately return a request for comment.

Angela Portier, who operates four shrimp boats with her husband under the Chauvin-based Faith Family Shrimp Company, hopes the additional inspection money improves economics for local shrimpers.

“I think it’s all about supply and demand,” she says. “And the less imports we’re fighting, the more of a demand we’ll have for our product. So that’s what I’m praying these inspections will do.”


Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Foundation for Louisiana, and local listeners.

As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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