My husband and I have been talking seafood nearly nonstop for two days now. The main topic is Maine lobster (tis the season for out-of-town guests), but for some reason we keep coming back to Gulf of Mexico shrimp.
Lucky for us, the gulf spring brown shrimp season opened in Louisiana’s inshore waters on Monday. Shrimpers are raring to go after a delay, resulting from a longer, colder winter than usual. But some fishermen have had their enthusiasm cut short already. The state’s enforcement arm of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has cited eight shrimpers for trawling in one of the small closed areas.
Of course it’s possible the shrimpers didn’t realize they were trawling in a closed area, given how small it is (it’s the pink square west of the Mississippi River on the map — download your own copy here). “That’s one of those ambiguous things," says fisheries activist Margaret Bryan Curole in Galliano, La. "Where exactly is the closed area? Just like the way they enforce the inshore/offshore line.”
It's also possible they knew exactly what they were doing. (Several calls to the department were not returned in time to post this story.) “That’s one of the spots where there’s always been shrimp, and right now there’s hardly any shrimp anywhere,” says Curole. “And that’s the way it’s been since the spill.”
The problem is that in the end, this incident only serves to scare the public about the safety of Gulf of Mexico shrimp, when the reality is, it’s far better than the nearly entirely untested — and popular alternative — Asian imports.
A better course of action — and use of taxpayer dollars — might be to increase and improve testing for shrimp as it comes to the docks (or even as it's hauled aboard), rather than paying enforcement officers to patrol a tiny area of the bay.
The delay of the season opener has guaranteed good prices for shrimpers. So let’s hope this is a small blip in an otherwise productive season.