A House resolution that originally asked Congress to prohibit "diseased" shrimp imports from foreign countries has morphed into a request for federal lawmakers to study the issue. House Concurrent Resolution 120 by Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, passed with barely any discussion by the lower chamber but ran into problems in the state Senate last week.
"I was contacted by restaurants in New Orleans that use this imported shrimp and they believe the resolution is overkill," says Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner. He managed to convince the Senate to send HCR 120 to the Senate Commerce Committee, which he chairs, for another hearing.
Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, objected to Martiny's study amendment. He says Congress should ban, not study, the importation of shrimp from countries that have experienced problems with "early mortality syndrome," or EMS. Harrison says there have been losses of up to 100 percent reported on farms in China, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it's doubtful the bacterium that causes EMS could even make it to the U.S. The bacterium is found only in certain species of prawn. But the resolution would have helped domestic shrimpers compete with the low price of imports.
It's the second time commercial fishermen have bumped heads with restaurants this session, the first being a tussle over proposed changes to the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. — JEREMY ALFORD