Globalizing Shrimp: Florida's "Wild Wonderful Shrimp" Program

Article excerpt

This paper examines Florida's response to the globalization of the shrimp industry. The U.S. shrimp market has been dramatically transformed by the expansion of aquaculture-produced shrimp in Asia and Latin America as processing and transportation technologies deliver this high-value food to U.S. markets. Florida shrimpers sell wild-caught shrimp sourced from the ocean and are experiencing great difficulty competing with the cheaper imports. The State of Florida developed the "Wild and Wonderful Shrimp" Program as a response to this situation and to aid Florida shrimpers. This program illustrates a role for the state as a promoter and facilitator--that is, a purveyor for the Florida shrimp industry. We examine the "Wild and Wonderful Shrimp" Program and its geographic strategy to influence how consumers think about shrimp as a way to shape the market to benefit Florida shrimpers.

KEY WORDS: Florida shrimping, Globalization, state as purveyor, shrimp mass market and specialty market, certification

INTRODUCTION

Globalization offers both opportunities and challenges: the mix of each, however, is never uniform for either people or places. How globalization is experienced depends on who and where you are. We explore globalization's unevenness by examining the Florida shrimp industry and the State of Florida's "Wild & Wonderful Shrimp" program which was created to help Florida shrimpers respond to the changing geographies of the shrimp industry. The intent of this program is to promote Florida shrimp by acting as a marketer and facilitator but not as a regulator of capital. Borrowing a term from the food industry, we describe the "Wild & Wonderful Shrimp" program as an example of the state fulfilling the role of a purveyor (1) to reconstruct the U.S. shrimp market.

Florida's "Wild & Wonderful Shrimp" program (hereafter "W&WS program") provides a unique perspective on how people and places respond to globalization and how the state can shape globalization's outcomes. With regards to shrimp, research has focused on aquaculture-produced shrimp in the global South and addresses its social and environmental impacts (Stonich 1995; Vandergeest et al. 1999; Lebel et al. 2002; Barbier and Suthawan 2004; Clay and NetLibrary Inc. 2004), the economic consequences for places of production (Stanley 2003) and prospects for economic development (Neiland et al. 2001), the ongoing restructuring of the industry (Goss et al. 2000), and the impacts of various regulation and certification plans for the industry (Vandergeest 2007). Our focus is on shrimping (i.e., catching shrimp with a net in the ocean) in the global North (Florida), the impacts of the trade of aquaculture shrimp on Florida's shrimping industry, and a state program designed to help Florida shrimpers by influencing consumer preference for shrimp.

This topic is inherently geographical. If globalization can be described as the consequences of increasing interconnectedness, our example addresses the characteristics of the places, the forces that connect them, the ways that they interact, and what might be lost in Florida to the globalization of shrimping. We believe that it is important to understand how the state, in this case Florida, can be a potentially powerful entity able to use programs like the W&WS program to confront and shape the forces of global capital. This paper seeks to describe the specific resources available to Florida and the strategies used to accomplish this. By acting on the market for shrimp, the state of Florida actively mediates this form of globalization. It should not be overlooked that the program is geographical in that it (re)defines shrimp by (re)connecting it to a place--Florida. A successful program can have real benefits for Florida's shrimp-dependent communities and change consumers' "mental map" of shrimp. The details of the W&WS program can be useful in understanding the proliferation of similar state-level programs in the U. …