Illegally traded shrimp are flooding the U.S. shrimp market. This is most evident in the recent Consumer Reports food safety study that found illegal antibiotics on samples of imported shrimp collected at a retail level. However, it can be felt in our local communities on an ongoing basis by simply looking at the health of our once-thriving shrimp industry. Congress must give our federal enforcement agencies the tools they need to prevent corrupt companies from evading the U.S. laws that are supposed to protect consumers and producers.

The U.S. shrimp industry and consumers of America’s favorite seafood should support the “Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act” (H.R. 1907), which was introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives. The proposed legislation would substantially strengthen the federal government’s ability to prevent and deter fraudulent trade, while increasing consumer confidence in the market.

Every year, millions of pounds of shrimp are shipped to the United States with false declarations regarding the producer of the shrimp or its country of origin. The illegal trade schemes are designed to bypass efforts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop shrimp contaminated with banned antibiotics from entering this market. They mean to avoid payment of tens of millions of dollars owed in antidumping duties to the U.S. Treasury. And they work.

The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, which will be considered next week by the U.S. House of Representatives, gives the federal government the tools it needs to prevent and eliminate fraudulent trade.

Especially important is the “Preventing Recurring Trade Evasion and Circumvention Act” section of the bill, championed by Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette.

The legislation creates a new unit within U.S. Customs and Border Protection that will focus on trade circumvention and coordinate with other federal agencies to prevent fraudulent trade. It also creates a new formal administrative procedure at the U.S. Department of Commerce that would allow that agency to investigate trade fraud.

The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act is needed to provide the shrimp industry in Louisiana with a level playing field on which to compete against imports and to prevent tainted shrimp from entering the U.S. market.

Randy Pearce

shrimp processor