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MARKET REPORT | BUYING TIPS | HEALTH / NUTRITION
There were smiles on the faces of Gulf shrimpers when the inshore waters of Louisiana opened for white shrimp in mid August. Catches weren’t expected to be any better than last year’s mediocre production. But the price. Oh the price. Since the beginning of the year, the prices for white (and almost all) warmwater shrimp have headed straight up. That’s due to the worsening disease outbreaks at shrimp farms in Thailand, Vietnam and Mexico, which has slashed harvests by as much as 70% in the case of Mexico and almost 50% in Thailand, the largest supplier of shrimp to the U.S. market.
Gulf shrimpers received some possible icing on the cake when the U.S. International Trade Commission announced in August that it proposed slapping a 18% countervailing duty on white shrimp from Ecuador, which had been on track to replace Thailand as the top white shrimp supplier by the end of the summer. If successful (a final decision is due in September), Ecuador will continue to ship more of its growing production to Asia and Europe. Through the first six months of this year, Ecuador’s shrimp exports to the U.S. were down 30% as Ecuador producers continue to rely less and less on the U.S. market for their growing production, which reached more than 250,000 metric tons in 2012. Since January, the price to distributors of 21/25 headless, tail-on white shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico has jumped $2/lb., from $5.50 to $7.50/lb. That’s the highest price since 1998, when prices of 21/25s briefly hit $8/lb. As recently as 2009, 21/25s were selling for just $3.75/lb. Through July of this year Gulf shrimpers had landed about 24,000 metric tons (headless weight) of shrimp, about the same as last year, but down about 15-20% from what is considered a good year. With prices so high this summer, Gulf catches could be higher this year as more boats stay on the water longer due to the improved economics.
U.S. white shrimp are caught from August to November, and are usually available frozen as tail meat year-round. White shrimp is low in saturated fat and is a very good source of selenium and vitamin B12. Random tests are recommended to ensure that the shrimp that arrives is actually what was ordered.
Buyer Beware: Most shrimp is treated with the preservative sodium tripolyphosphate, but too much will make the shrimp appear translucent and give them a soapy feel. Buyers recommend asking for specific moisture content since processors sometimes undercook the shrimp to increase weight. Many fishermen prevent black spots on shells by using bisodium sulfates but overuse causes pitting on the shells.
fresh & frozen products
White shrimp may be used as a substitute for imported shrimp.
There are no food safety or contaminant concerns with white shrimp.
FISHERY IMPACTS ON STOCK | HABITAT IMPACTS | BYCATCH | MANAGEMENT EFFECTIVENESS
Fishery Impacts on Stock
White shrimp are highly fecund and can grow fairly quickly, allowing them to rebound quickly from unfavorable environmental conditions such as extreme cold weather. The population levels of white shrimp, which are particularly abundant in the Gulf of Mexico, are high and overfishing is not occurring, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. They thrive in marshy, estuary-filled areas and are found higher in the water column than brown and pink shrimp.
Although fishermen use a variety of gear to catch white shrimp, the otter trawl is the most common. Since this gear is meant to maximize contact with the ocean bottom, it can harm marine organisms, damage the seafloor, disturb sediment, lower sea grass production, and cause an increase in algal blooms. Trawling also occurs in the same areas annually, according to the Blue Ocean Institute. Overall, the effects of trawling on the habitat are a moderate concern in this fishery.
Thousands of sea turtles are caught in shrimp trawls annually in the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Since shrimping trawlers interact with sea turtles so much, U.S. shrimpers are required to have turtle extruder devices (TEDs). Compliance varies but is good in the southeast Atlantic coast shrimp fishery, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. The white shrimp fishery also contributes to mortality in Gulf of Mexico red snapper, which has been overfished for decades. Other species of concern include endangered smalltooth sawfish, endangered Atlantic sturgeon and overfished blacknosed shark.
Louisiana does not enforce federal turtle extruder device requirements so compliance is voluntary. As a result, Seafood Watch has advised consumers to avoid buying shrimp from the state. Commercial shrimp fisheries are working on reducing bycatch impact through time-area closures and bycatch reduction devices, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. The white shrimp fishery abundance is monitored by the NMFS. Despite management efforts in the shrimp fisheries, bycatch continues to greatly outweigh shrimp landings. Bycatch reduction methods depend on compliance, which is not at 100%.
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