Fresh, off-the-boat shrimp is the hallmark of Fernandina Beach’s annual shrimp festival, but some shrimpers are jumping ship this year after fighting over the prevalence of imported, farmed shrimp at festival booths.
The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, started 51 years ago by First Coast shrimpers, allows food stands to sell whatever shrimp they can afford, including farm-raised shrimp from other countries. In protest, the Shrimp Producers Association is packing up its fried shrimp and hush puppies and avoiding the May festival.
The festival isn’t the root of their anger, said Mike Adams, a member of the Shrimp Producers Association, a 200-member group of commercial shrimpers. The shrimpers’ frustration spreads past the reaches of the First Coast and into their industry as a whole.
Bring imported shrimp into a local festival to celebrate the Florida shrimper, and there’s bound to be a fight, said Adams.