NEW ORLEANS - Friday, the U.S. International Trade Commission voted, 4 to 2, not to renew the increased tariffs currently being imposed on foreign shrimp. Tommy's Seafood Inc. is one of many companies in the local shrimp industry fighting for increased tariff's on foreign shrimp.
"This is all privately funded. There is no one stepping to the plate to fight for this industry," said Tommy Delaune, president of Tommy's Seafood Inc.
This year Tommy's Seafood Inc. saw the value of local shrimp go up 20 percent, and it says that it is because of the higher tariffs other countries were forced to pay over the last year.
"That was (allowed us) to keep our workforce -- these employees here who work 80 and 90 hours a week -- employed," said Chalin Delaune, Tommy's Seafood vice president.
On Friday, the commission ruled, in a 4-2 vote, that the petitioners representing Gulf shrimpers failed to present strong evidence that the local industry was suffering from the billions of dollars in foreign shrimp coming in from Thailand, Ecuador, China, Vietnam and Malaysia.
"When we have to lower the value of our product to be able to compete in the marketplace there is a trickle-down effect, said Chalin Delaune. "We have to lower the price to the dock or the dealer, who then has to lower the price to the fishermen."
Delaune says they are not just fighting for their livelihood, they are fighting for local commercial fishermen like Wilson Martin. Martin said it is getting more and more difficult for him and other fishermen to turn a profit.
"It is almost a standoff. What you catch, you sell it and that pays for the fuel and the ice, and there is no money left over," said Martin.
Delaune says that 95 percent of the shrimp consumed annually here in the U.S. comes from foreign countries, and he says after this recent ruling we will likely see an inventory dump in the marketplace.
Although several local businesses support the local seafood industry and only buy local, many do not.
"Now it is up to the American people to decide if they want to buy American and support U.S. workers," said Tommy Delaune.
Sen. Mary Landrieu expressed her disappointment with Friday's decision. "I am even more committed to restoring a level playing field for our domestic shrimpers. The fact remains that foreign governments are unfairly spending hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize exports and dump underpriced shrimp into the United States."