In line with other cities and towns across coastal Georgia, Richmond Hill City Council approved a resolution at Tuesday’s workshop meeting to declare an economic “disaster” brought upon by imported shrimp.
The rapid influx of imported shrimp – also known as ”shrimp dumping- being sold in the U.S. has led to stiff competition for domestic shrimpers. Unable to compete with lower prices, many local shrimpers are struggling – and some are considering leaving the industry altogether.
Mayor Russ Carpenter expressed his support for the resolution, which was promoted by the Georgia Commercial Fisherman Association.
“All of you who have been here long enough to remember – we actually had a thriving industry here in Richmond Hill with shrimping,” Carpenter said. “It’s certainly not what it used to be but we’d really still like to protect our shrimpers.”
Local shrimper Traci Arnsdorff has witnessed the drastic changes over time, working alongside her husband at Grey Ghost Seafood in Richmond Hill since 2000.
“We made more money in the early nineties than we do now on per-pound of shrimp, because of imports,” Arnsdorff said. “I try to keep my price at a decent price, but we’ve got to overcome our fuel costs and the maintenance costs.”
Arnsdorff stresses that it isn’t a level playing field between family-owned establishments like Grey Ghost and overseas shrimp companies, which is why the emergency resolution is so important.
“Everything we do, comes straight out of our pocket, out of our personal money,” Arnsdorff said.
“We get no help, no subsidies from anywhere. I mean, we’re just asking for a little help.”
Shrimpers in southeast Georgia are now hoping that proclamations like the one in Richmond Hill will draw the attention of Gov. Brian Kemp, so that a statewide resolution can be made to help out the Georgia shrimp industry.
Big business not only cuts into local profits, but also long-standing livelihoods. Many shrimpers in Georgia are wondering if there is even a future for them in the seafood industry.
“I have a 14-year-old. People are like, ‘Are you going to let him go shrimp?’, and I’m like, I don’t think there’s going to be shrimping by the time he’s old enough,” Arnsdorff said.
“They’re pushing us out everyday.”