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CITAC Shrimp Task Force

May, 2004


Public Citizen, the self-styled ”consumer advocacy organization” that was founded by Ralph Nader, has associated itself with the Southern Shrimp Alliances antidumping petition against shrimp from six Latin and Asian countries. ”Do not buy farm-raised shrimp” advises an April 23 press release that announced Public Citizens newest "health" campaign. ”Ask for local or U.S. pot caught shrimp.”

”Shrimp farms produce a wretched cocktail of chemicals, shrimp feed and shrimp feces,” proclaimed Andrianna Natsoulas, who is Public Citizens field director for the anti-shrimp campaign. ”We want consumers to understand the real cost of shrimp and what its doing to their health.”

Actually, shrimp foreign and domestic are terrific, particularly when they land on consumers dinner plates at affordable prices. But Public Citizen doesn’t let ideology or facts get in the way of a good story.

Here is the world of shrimp as seen in the eyes of the activists: ”It is hard to imagine that shrimp the most popular seafood in the United States was once a delicacy reserved for Asian royalty. What was once a luxury item can now be consumed all-you-can-eat style at chain restaurants. A billion pounds of white gold worth about $6 billion is produced each year. How did this happen? It didnt occur overnight, but rampant changes in the shrimp aquaculture industry have made it seem so. Just as industrialization and globalization have made low-cost beef, poultry, fruit and vegetables available to much of the world, so have these trends made shrimp affordable to hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide – including the bulk of the U.S. population.”

While most people would happily sing the praises of industrialization and globalization that brings shrimp and other tasty foods to consumers at affordable prices, this is hardly Public Citizens point. The press release continues:

”But, just as these trends have caused economic, environmental and social disaster in the Global South and the Global North alike, so has the expansion of the global shrimp industry devastated many nations particularly in Asia and Latin America.”

The release goes on to complain about the low costs of shrimp to American consumers, a fact that the activists hope high antidumping tariffs will change. ”Consumers must be made aware that when they eat shrimp, they may be dining on a delicacy responsible for hunger, suffering and death,” declared Steve Trent, the director of the Environmental Justice Foundation and a man who does not seem prone to understatement.

This is some strange press release: an American consumer group attacking American consumers.

Debbie Regan, the spokeswoman for the Southern Shrimp Alliance, acknowledges that her group has had communications with Public Citizen’s Natsoulas, while diplomatically putting some distance between the two groups.

”We are not supporting them; they are not supporting us,” Regan explains. "I’m not calling reporters about antibiotics,” Regan explains. Regan asks quite sensibly how consumers are expected to distinguish between foreign farmed shrimp and live-caught domestic wild shrimp. ”We have been pushing [Public Citizen] to distinguish the products in the media,” she says. "We are concerned that consumers will not hear the difference.”

Reprinted with Permission from The Rushford Report .