In a letter sent Thursday to the Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, Chris Oliver, the Southern Shrimp Alliance emphasized the importance of the agency’s monthly reporting of shrimp landings in the Gulf of Mexico to the U.S. shrimp industry.
Noting that families and communities across the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic are anxious about the ability of the commercial shrimp industry to maintain operations as the country addresses the COVID-19 pandemic, the Southern Shrimp Alliance explained that the monthly Gulf shrimp landings data reported by NOAA has historically acted as an important reference tool in evaluating the impact of different events upon the commercial shrimp industry operating in the Gulf of Mexico. In the past, NOAA Fisheries’ reporting has provided an objective metric through which to assess the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, freshwater diversions, hurricanes, and significant expansions in hypoxic areas within the Gulf on commercial shrimp harvests on a near real-time basis.
NOAA Fisheries has been compiling and reporting regarding the commercial market for seafood for over eighty years through its Fishery Market News service. The agency has included monthly reporting of Gulf shrimp landings data since 1995. While NOAA Fisheries has discontinued some of its Fishery Market News reporting over the last several years, most prominently market news and fish prices in the Northeast region, the Gulf shrimp landings report has remained widely disseminated and relied upon.
In the absence of NOAA Fisheries’ monthly reporting, information regarding the total shrimp landings in the Gulf of Mexico would only be released by the agency along with its annual Fisheries of the United States report. The most recent information available for annual commercial shrimp landings is for calendar year 2018 and was released in February of this year. If that same schedule applied for commercial fish landings this year, data regarding shrimp harvests in the Gulf over the next few months would not be available from NOAA Fisheries until February 2022. This timeline would be far too late to be useful in assisting policymakers to craft appropriate responses to any harm befalling the shrimp industry because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beyond stressing the importance of the agency’s data compilation and reporting, the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s letter asked that NOAA Fisheries take steps to improve the quality of the data reported and expand the program to also include shrimp landings in the South Atlantic.
Read the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s April 9, 2020 letter to NOAA Fisheries here: https://www.shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/SSA.pdf