Today, the Southern Shrimp Alliance and the Georgia Shrimp Association sent a joint letter to the Commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Agriculture in response to a public records release of information relating to the state’s seafood sampling and testing program.
The joint letter recognizes the Department’s substantial efforts to ensure the health and safety of Georgia’s consumers, resulting in 400 samples of seafood tested over the last five fiscal years. In that time period, the Department found fluoroquinolones or chloramphenicol in seventeen samples – a 4.25% contamination rate. The findings of contamination included the discovery of Chinese catfish fillets laced with fluoroquinolones in 2009 and 2010, despite the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Import Alert (#16-131) on imported catfish fillets from China implemented in 2007.
Both the Southern Shrimp Alliance and Georgia Shrimp Association contend that the Department’s sampling and testing program is even more important now as the use of banned antibiotics and fungicides in foreign aquaculture has persisted and imports of seafood into Georgia have increased dramatically over the last few years. The joint letter observes that in 2003, less than a half a million pounds of shrimp entered the port of Savannah. Through November, nearly 65 million pounds of shrimp entered the port of Savannah in 2011 alone.
At the same time, Georgia’s shrimp industry has continued to struggle, with the Department of Natural Resources reporting a record low of 233 resident and non-resident shrimp trawler licenses issued in 2011, compared to 1,471 in 1979, 534 in 2000, and 306 in 2010. The shrimpers remaining in the industry continue to compete in the marketplace with imported shrimp, made cheaper by the use of banned antibiotics and fungicides in their production.
The letter, citing the availability of abundant objective information regarding the pervasive use of banned chemicals in aquaculture and technological advances in laboratory techniques to identify these substances in seafood, requests the resumption and expansion of the sampling and testing program to keep unsafe seafood off the plates of Georgia’s consumers.