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One hundred euros for a kilo of North Sea shrimps, how is that possible?

Fisheries

Due to an increase in predatory fish and climate change, the last shrimp season yielded a meager catch. Anyone who gets a craving for tomato shrimp will therefore have to dig deeper into their pockets.

Steven Timmermans, manager of fish wholesaler Alfa Fish, calculates that a kilogram of peeled North Sea gray shrimp costs about 100 euros today. “And those prices will continue to rise,” he warns.

The price increase is due to scarcity on the market. There was little catch in 2023. “Normally, frozen shrimp is mixed with fresh shrimp in the spring,” says Timmermans. “But now there is no frozen stock. And that leads to supply problems.”

According to Timmermans, it is “very realistic” that empty shelves will appear here and there in supermarkets in the coming months. But Hans Polet, expert at the Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research (ILVO), claims that the price will mainly be affected. He doesn’t expect empty shelves.

The Belgian Shipowners’ Center confirms the small supply of gray North Sea shrimps. In 2023 (figure up to the end of November), supply was 75 percent lower than the year before. Small nuance: 2022 was an exceptional year, but compared to 2021, the supply in 2023 was also up to 30 percent lower. Supermarket chain Colruyt also confirms that there is a shortage in the supply of gray shrimp, resulting in sharply rising purchase prices.

Natural causes

According to Hans Polet, fluctuations in the number of shrimp are not exceptional. The stocks are extra sensitive to this due to the short lifespan of the crustaceans. Last season, shrimp were hit by an increase in whiting, a fish species that preys on shrimp.

Climate change also plays a role. Several species of plankton, on which shrimp larvae feed, appear at different times than expected, or even disappear altogether.

Polet expects the shortage to continue until the summer. North Sea shrimp fishing takes place from July to November.

Shrimp with PFAS

In addition, it emerged last week that North Sea shrimps are also exposed to pollution by PFOS and PFAS. This was learned in a press release from the Federal Agency for Food Chain Safety (FAVV), ILVO and the Department of Healthcare. In 2023, the FASFC checked ten sample shrimps that were caught in various places in the North Sea. In one of these, the value of both PFAS and PFOS exceeded the European standard.

No measures are being taken yet, but the FASFC and ILVO will continue targeted monitoring. There are no results yet.

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