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July 2004, Volume 10, Number 3

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Fisheries

Every year, about $55 billion in fish products is traded internationally, including a third from developing countries. Fisheries employ 25 million workers around the world, 90 percent in small-scale fishing operations. However, the industry is rapidly consolidating. As in farming, fewer and larger operations account for an increasing share of production and trade.

Imported shrimp worth $3.5 billion provide 85 percent of US shrimp, and the price US fishers received for ocean-caught shrimp dropped from $1 a pound in 2003 to $0.50 in 2004. The Southern Shrimp Alliance asked that anti-dumping penalties be levied on imports from the major shrimp exporters, including Thailand, China, Vietnam and India. In July 2004, the Bush Administration agreed, imposing tariffs of over 100 percent on shrimp from China and Vietnam, the "non-market economies" that supply 25 percent of the shrimp imported to the US. The shrimp decision is the broadest US trade protection since tariffs were imposed on steel in 2002.

The major US shrimping areas are off the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Many shrimpers hire H-2B workers; in addition to low prices and rising fuel prices, some shrimpers said that 2,000 Mexican H-2B workers would not be available to leave Port Isabel on shrimping boats because the 66,000 a year cap on H-2B visas was reached earlier in 2004.

In 2001, shrimp surpassed canned tuna as America's favorite seafood, largely because of low-cost farm-raised imported shrimp. Pond farms in southeast Asia are cost-efficient, yield a consistent quality and size of shrimp and can easily expand production. About 90 percent of the shrimp consumed in the US are imported, and Action Aid Vietnam, issued a report warning that thousands of families in rural Vietnam would lose their livelihood and "fall back into poverty" if tariffs were imposed.

Global Warming. EU leaders claim a "special responsibility" to lead the world to preserve the climate, especially since the US refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The EU in 2002 enacted a law requiring greenhouse emissions to be eight percent below 1990 levels by 2012. To create a market in permits to emit carbon dioxide, EU governments allocated carbon dioxide quotas to 12,000 plants- from power plants and oil refineries to paper and cement factories. Beginning on January 1, 2005, these permits can be traded--under this cap-and-trade system, emitters can continue emitting, or reduce emissions and sell the right to emit to other firms.

The US has five percent of the world's residents, and accounts for 25 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Kyoto would have required the US to reduce greenhouse emissions seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Mariano Castillo, "Another Gulf Shrimping Season Of Despair," San Antonio Express-News, July 11, 2004.