Diving prices put La. shrimpers between a haul and a hard place
Prices are on the decline for shrimpers in Louisiana, some of whom are seeing their catch sell for less than half of what it was worth just last year.
One shrimper feeling the pinch is Nicholas Rodrigue, from Dulac, who is pulling in as little as USD .55 (EUR .50) per pound of shrimp for this current season, which began on 18 May – Rodrigue was getting USD 2 (EUR 1.8) per pound from local docks last season.
Such sharp drops in prices are starting to take personal financial tolls on shrimpers, Rodrigue included.
"Between high fuel and groceries, you ain't making no money," Rodrigue told The Courier. "And you can't say, well I'm going to tie up the boat because when you tie up the boat you're still not making money."
Per National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tallies, smaller shrimp – which typically comprise 41 to 50 per pound – sold for USD 3.75 (EUR 3.4) per pound in 2014 and USD 3 (EUR 2.7) per pound in 2013. Where such catch once sold for USD 2.30 (EUR 2.1) on average, it now sells for anywhere between USD .75-.80 (EUR .68-.73), according to Rodrigue.
Many factors could be contributing to the plunge in price, including the fact that inshore shrimpers are competing with offshore boats which have gotten a head start on the catch with an earlier season. Additionally, foreign shrimpers are dominating key markets with their imported hauls.
A disease among imported shrimp, early mortality syndrome (EMS), dwindled importer competition for La. shrimpers over the last couple of years. However, imported inventories are back on the upswing, and with most countries with more stringent import standards still denying these shrimp stocks, the United States has moved in to accept the lion’s share of the product pool. This has naturally left U.S. domestic shrimpers struggling to compare.
"The Europeans are refusing to buy them, the Germans are refusing to buy them, the Mexicans are refusing to buy them and we're buying them all," explained Dean Blanchard of Dean Blanchard Seafood on Grand Isle, to The Courier. "So there's a product that can't be sold anywhere in the civilized world but the United States."
According to other industry observers, natural variations in the tide as well as the season opening too late may also play a role in the current price dip. Shrimpers are pulling more small brown shrimp and fewer large white shrimp, which might factor into the market’s current state as well.