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Op-Ed: Preserving our heritage and livelihood – A shrimper’s stand against unjust regulations

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I’ve been a shrimper for over 45 years. It’s more than just a job; it’s a legacy that’s been passed down through generations in my family. Since I was 15, I’ve been working in the waters of Plaquemines Parish, my workplace, my passion, and my source of livelihood. Today, as I continue to bring the finest Gulf shrimp to your tables, I find myself fighting not only for my job but for the very soul of Louisiana’s shrimping heritage.

The recent rule by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) mandating the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on skimmer trawl vessels longer than 40 feet is a real threat to our community. This rule, though it may seem well-intentioned, is an example of overreach and disregard for our industry’s reality. That’s why, under my leadership, the Louisiana Shrimp Association is taking a stand by suing against this unfair regulation on the same day the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the power of faraway bureaucrats in the Loper Bright case.

Our challenge isn’t about denying environmental stewardship; we shrimpers understand the importance of preserving marine life more than anyone else. Our problem lies in the NMFS’s lack of consideration for the real-world reasons and impact of this rule. Studies show that there is minimal interaction between sea turtles and shrimpers in the waters where we mostly operate, and our waters aren’t primary nesting sites for these creatures. However, the NMFS chose to ignore this evidence and push through a rule that could devastate our industry.

The financial consequences of complying with the NMFS rule are severe. Installing TEDs on vessels isn’t just an expensive one-time cost; it’s an ongoing financial burden. These devices often result in lost catch, especially when debris interferes with their operation, making shrimping more time-consuming and dangerous. Across the industry, we could face a potential revenue loss of $9.4 million to $44 million in the first year alone – a devastating blow to shrimpers who already struggle to make ends meet.

This rule doesn’t exist on its own; we’re also competing against a flood of foreign shrimp imports, trying to hold our place in the market. This additional burden could be the final straw that forces many of us out of business, wiping out a crucial cultural and economic contributor to Louisiana.

It’s not just about the shrimpers. The Louisiana shrimp industry is the heart and soul of our state’s economy, providing income for over 15,000 hardworking folks and bringing in a whopping $1.3 billion. It’s more than just a business; it’s a way of life that’s been passed down from one generation to the next in the bayous of Louisiana.

But right now, there’s a rule from the NMFS that’s putting all of this in danger. We’re not asking for special treatment, just a fair shake. We’re calling on the Biden Administration to take a second look at this rule and find a balance between protecting the environment and preserving our centuries-old industry. We’re not against conservation; we’re all about being responsible caretakers while acknowledging the human side of things.

This lawsuit isn’t just some legal matter; it’s a fight for our rights, our way of life, and the heart and soul of Louisiana’s shrimping community. While the Supreme Court figures out the power of these faraway folks making decisions for us, we hope that our battle resonates not only in the courtrooms but in the hearts of all who cherish our traditions, our livelihoods, and good ol’ fair governance.

We’re not just standing up for our nets; we’re standing up for our heritage, our families, and everything it means to be a Louisiana shrimper. Stand with us in this fight, because it isn’t just about saving turtles; it’s about saving a way of life that’s made Louisiana proud for generations.

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