Demand for cheap shrimp is driving U.S. shrimpers out of business

This “All Things Considered” story highlights the challenges that shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico are facing in make a living. In addition to the struggles of domestic shrimpers, industrial-scale shrimp farming that produces low-cost imports harms coastal communities overseas, destroying mangrove ecosystems and often involving labor abuses, including forced labor. Consumers so not benefit from this system, as imports often contain additives and residues of unsafe antibiotics, and aren’t adequately inspected.

With more and more domestic shrimpers being pushed out of the industry, there’s a loss of cultural heritage in Gulf communities.

“BURNETT: Rivera remembers 40 years ago when Port Isabel in the Port of Brownsville had some 500 boats. Today, the shrimping fleet here in the tip of Texas is down to fewer than 100 boats.

RIVERA: We were the shrimp capital of the world at one point. It’s sad, what it’s come down to. It really is.”

One part of the solution is consumer education – many Americans don’t know about the crisis domestic shrimpers are facing, and don’t differentiate between farmed imports and Gulf wild shrimp.

“BURNETT: For Gulf shrimpers to survive, they need consumers to care more about taste. Texas brown shrimp, with their robust, briny flavor and firm shells, are considered by some to be the best… Charles Burnell has some advice for consumers who love that salty taste of wild Gulf shrimp – ask for it.”

More in the story by John Burnett on All Things Considered.