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CHARLESTON, S.C., -- As U.S. shrimpers launch the 2007 shrimping season this month, they will be following one of their largest catches on record. The U.S. shrimp industry caught a record-high volume of wild-caught shrimp in 2006, its first season after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma ravaged parts of the industry in 2005.
According to National Marine Fisheries Institute, in the 2006 season U.S. shrimpers landed 10 percent more shrimp than the seasonal 2001-2004 average, with a total catch of nearly 69,000 metric tons. The record catch is attributed to the environmentally positive effects of the 2005 hurricane season on domestic shrimp populations.
"There are several theories as to why hurricanes are so helpful to shrimp populations, but I've found that the worst hurricanes result in the best shrimp," stated Dennis Henderson, owner of Trico Seafood and president of Wild American Shrimp, Inc. (WASI). "In 2006, not only did we land more shrimp, but the shrimp tended to be larger in size and packed full of flavor that only Mother Nature can produce."
While the hurricane season of 2005 benefited the sustainable stocks of shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic for the 2006 season, the negative effects of their destructive nature continues to have a major impact on the U.S. shrimp industry. More than 60 percent of the U.S. shrimp industry was in the path of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita resulting in more than $2 billion in damages.
Today, the challenges from the hurricanes damage remain: the amount of capital required to rebuild has created cash flow problems, the significant damage to infrastructure has left thousands of boats still on docks in need of repair, and continued labor shortages to help with the fishing and processing of U.S. wild-caught shrimp prevent larger catch numbers.
In addition to the damage from the hurricanes, the domestic shrimping industry is still working to regain market share from cheaper, imported shrimp that is sometimes illegally dumped in the U.S. All of the southern shrimp producing states show a decrease in the number of boats catching shrimp.
Despite these significant obstacles, thousands of shrimpers and a majority of shrimp processors continue to catch America's favorite seafood. "Chefs and food lovers are excited about the continued availability of U.S. wild-caught shrimp because they know that the distinct flavors of brown, pink, and white shrimp caught from the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic just can't be manufactured in a pond," stated Henderson. "Consumers can help U.S. shrimping communities and the domestic industry continue their recovery by asking for certified Wild American Shrimp at their local grocery stores and in restaurants."