Cheap Imports Leave US Shrimpers Struggling With ‘Starvation Wages’

Unable to compete with imports, Louisiana’s shrimpers are calling for emergency action to shore up their shrinking industry.

Photo credit: Julie Dermansky

“We are paying to work. We are paying to feed our nation,” said Kindra Arnesen, at a rally on the steps of

Louisiana’s towering capitol in Mid-May. “I ask for immediate emergency action at all levels. Nothing else will be accepted by this group

The 45 year-old shrimp harvester—who has been hailed as a voice for the Gulf, and has fought for decades to sustain the domestic shrimp industry—was surrounded by nearly a hundred other harvesters who had traveled inland from their homes along coastal Louisiana to Baton Rouge to rally for livable shrimp prices.

It was a warm, clear-skied day, perfect weather for trawling. But the shrimpers chose to join Arnesen and shut down their businesses for the day to rally against the precipitous drop in the price for their catch. Shrimpers who harvest from the Gulf of Mexico have seen dockside shrimp prices—the first step in the wild-caught shrimp supply chain—fall to the lowest numbers since 2019. According to preliminary 2023 data from the National Marine Fisheries Service, shrimp prices have dropped by as much as 44 percent since 2022. For instance, the price of medium-large, unprocessed Gulf Coast shrimp fell from $2.79 per pound to $1.54.

Photo credit: Grey Moran

But some Louisiana shrimpers are netting even lower prices….

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Linked to Civil Eats – Grey Moran 


Not only do illegal imports drive down domestic shrimp prices, but they also have consequences abroad, linked to ecological and human rights violations, including pollution, slavery in the shrimp industry, and the destruction of mangroves to make way for massive aquaculture operations. By comparison, the U.S. fishing industry has some of the strictest regulations in the world for ecological health and worker safety, yet these higher standards aren’t enough to drive up prices for shrimpers.

Photo credit: Julie Dermansky