Georgia shrimpers struggling as demand for local shrimp declines

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 4:39 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2023 at 5:12 PM EDT
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia shrimpers say they’re struggling. Several factors have led to the drop in shrimp prices and lowered demand for local shrimp. This is leading one group and some local lawmakers to try to get them some help.

Roy Reagan has shrimped for decades. He says he’s worried about the industry’s future.

“I wanted my son to keep doing this, he works with my best friend here, he’d be fourth generation in my family, and I don’t know that he’s going to make it, he’s going to have to find something else to do… if we don’t get some kind of change,” said shrimper Roy Reagan.

Members of Georgia Commercial Fishermans Association say an influx of imported shrimp is to blame.

According to the FDA, 94% of seafood sold in the U.S. is imported, and shrimp accounts for the largest percentage within that, and they’re sold for much lower prices.

“You have shrimp coming in from foreign countries that are coming in peeled, headed, deveined, frozen individually and ready to go, between 45 cent and 70 cent a pound,” said Paige Morrison, with Georgia Commercial Fishermans Association.

At one point, these fishermen say their shrimp went for around $7/pound. Now, that’s closer to $3/pound. This drop in price, is all happening as the current price of diesel fuel is more than $4/gallon in Georgia, according to AAA.

“You have to fight to pay your fuel bill, and when that’s paid, there’s not much left over,” said Reagan.

Georgia Representative Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) says he’s teaming up with other coastal legislators to send a letter to the governor and the state’s agriculture commissioner encouraging them to ask the federal government for a fisheries emergency to be declared in the state.

“This is an unprecedented time. The market is absolutely overwhelmed with imported shrimp, so our shrimpers can’t sell their shrimp on the market,” said Rep. Petrea.

A declared emergency could potentially grant relief payments to shrimpers.

“Some of these people aren’t going to make it through the season. If we don’t have buyers for our shrimp, these guys, they’re not going to make it. They’ll lose cars, boats, houses. It’s a critical point right now,” said Morrison.

There’s no timeline yet on when the letter will be submitted to the governor’s office, but Petrea says the sooner, the better.