More US Senators push for shrimp to be added to SIMP

Published on
February 12, 2018

A bipartisan group of 11 U.S. Senators have signed on to a plan that would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to add shrimp to the Seafood Import Monitoring Program.

In a letter addressed to Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the senators expressed their support for language in the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which mandates the inclusion of shrimp in the monitoring program within 30 days of the spending bill’s enactment.

SIMP, which officially took effect last month, requires imported seafood to be traced from the time it was caught or harvested to the time it reaches the United States. The program was created to crack down the sale of counterfeit or illegally caught seafood products to consumers. 

Most of the seafood Americans consume is imported and shrimp makes up nearly two-thirds of those imports. Shrimp was one of the species included in the program. However, federal officials have waived it from compliance at this point until similar recordkeeping requirements are also in effect for domestic producers. That, however, has not stopped U.S. commercial fishing groups from pushing NOAA add shrimp to the program.

“The domestic, wild-caught shrimp industry has been in a state of decline for decades due to the flood of cheap, imported shrimp from countries such as India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam,” said Ryan Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United. “This bill is a beacon of hope for our coastal communities that greatly rely on domestic shrimp production – the largest commercial fishing industry in the southeastern United States.” 

In their letter, the senators expressed concerns over the use of unapproved antibiotics in foreign farmed shrimp and cited reports of human rights abuses by processors in Thailand, one of the world’s largest shrimp providers.

“We believe that SIMP is a key step to restoring a level playing field for the U.S. shrimp industry,” the senators wrote.

The signatories are:

  • Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi)
  • Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana)
  • John Cornyn (R-Texas)
  • John Kennedy (R-Louisiana)
  • Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina)
  • Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut)
  • Doug Jones (D-Alabama)
  • Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts)
  • Bill Nelson (D-Florida)
  • Brian Schatz D-Hawaii)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island)

The senators aren’t the first ones to call into question the drugs used by foreign shrimp processors. Last month, a letter written to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-North Carolina)  noted an FDA report that roughly one in eight samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration were shown to “have the presence of unsafe drug residues.” 

Gavin Gibbons, vice president of communications for the National Fisheries Institute, pushed back on the sentiments in the senators’ letter, saying it is “borderline disingenuous” to call SIMP a food safety initiative since it’s only supposed to track the harvesting of the product.

“The 15 different species originally covered had more than a year to prepare for implementation,” he said. “To give shrimp, a product initially exempted by NOAA itself, only 30 days to comply suggests something else is afoot. An effort to erect a trade barrier under cover of a fictional food safety tie reeks of insincere legislating.”

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