China ban may be too late to rescue US shrimpers

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
9 July 2007, at 1:00am

US - A rash of safety scares that caused some Chinese imports to be pulled off store shelves - including poisoned toothpaste, lead-tainted toys, and contaminated pet food - has spiked demand for products made in the United States. But in the case of shrimp, America's favorite seafood, there is not enough to go around.

A staggering 92 percent of shrimp eaten in the United States is imported; last year, eight percent of it, about 151 million pounds, came from China.

Last month, federal food safety officials included shrimp from China on a short list of seafood they are banning until it no longer tests positive for unapproved chemicals and cancer-causing agents. That should be good news for the US shrimp fisheries, pushed to the brink of extinction by low-priced imports. But even if import restrictions result in higher prices for domestic shrimp, success remains a long shot for the country's remaining shrimp fishermen. And for some, any price increases will arrive too late.

In this small town at the southern edge of Pamlico Sound , second-generation fisherman Sherrill Styron is reluctantly planning to retire and convert the 2-acre hub for his business, Garland F. Fulcher Seafood Co. , into condominiums.

It is a dramatic shift for Styron, who just turned 65 and is the mayor of Oriental . Fifteen years ago, he said, it would have been "crazy" to think the waterfront property where he rose from crew member to business owner would become condos. "But there's not any money to be made here anymore," Styron said.