The American commercial shrimp industry is heavily regulated. Federal, state, and local governments set out rules and regulations regarding how, when, and where commercial shrimpers work. They require fishermen to document their activities. They require safeguards be adopted and maintained to ensure the health and welfare of industry members, as well as consumers of U.S. wild-caught shrimp. These rules and regulations are backed up by strong enforcement mechanisms, with significant penalties in place for people who do not follow them.
Foreign shrimp aquaculture is not heavily regulated. Weak governments in developing countries fail to enforce laws to protect workers, consumers, and the environment. Free-trade zealots refer to this difference in circumstances as a “comparative advantage” and emphasize the benefits of lower prices to consumers despite the human costs.
Currently, foreign shrimp industries that adopt protocols to eliminate the use of antibiotics, improve labor conditions, and minimize harmful environmental impacts are punished in the U.S. market for voluntarily adopting standards that increase their costs of production.
In recognition of the challenges confronted by ethical foreign shrimp producers and U.S. seafood purchasers, the Southern Shrimp Alliance introduces new online tools to identify the risks of both antibiotics use in aquaculture and labor abuse in shrimp production activities overseas. The resources compile government and third-party reports, which contradict industry-controlled certification programs that offer vague promises and inoperative commitments.
“Consumers want shrimp produced in an ethical manner,” explained John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “Consumers don’t want their dollars to encourage antibiotic use in aquaculture or labor abuses in shrimp production. Our new website tools help seafood purchasers understand why some shrimp are so cheap. Knowing where the risks of unethical practices are the greatest can lead to better purchasing decisions.”
The Southern Shrimp Alliance updated its “Check Your Supplier” databases of all shrimp import refusals in the United States, European Union, and Japan. In addition, the website now provides information about aquaculture’s contribution to the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance in pathogens. Direct links to research centers at the University of Minnesota (Food Protection Defense Institute) and Johns Hopkins University (Center for a Livable Future) provide in-depth information regarding risks associated with imported shrimp.
The Southern Shrimp Alliance expanded the “Check Your Supplier” tools to focus on forced and child labor in shrimp supply chains. The online feature consolidates U.S. government and third-party reports regarding labor abuses in foreign countries to highlight countries most likely to use exploitative labor practices in shrimp production. It also links to mobile apps developed by the U.S. Department of Labor for consumers and for importers.
The new “Check Your Supplier” component of the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s website is here: http://www.shrimpalliance.com/take-action/foreign-food-safety-resources/
About the Southern Shrimp Alliance
The Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA) is an organization of shrimp fishermen, shrimp processors, and other members of the domestic industry in the eight warmwater shrimp producing states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas.