Why You Should Think Twice About Eating Shrimp

by , 01/19/14

shrimp harvesting, farmed shrimp, wild shrimp, harvesting wild shrimp, eating shrimp, mangrove destruction, shrimp ponds, wild shrimp bycatch, marine stewardship council, stop eating shrimp

Americans love shrimp! It’s estimated that the average American eats 4.1 pounds of it every year, but you might want to think twice next time you pick up a bag of frozen shrimp at the grocery store. It turns out that the process of getting shrimp into those convenient frozen packages wreaks havoc on the environment. Farmed shrimp are pumped with chemicals that end up in people’s bodies, and shrimp cultivation can render huge swathes of the sea into barren wastelands for decades. Wild shrimp aren’t any better, as harvesting them kills droves of other sea animals in the process.

shrimp harvesting, farmed shrimp, wild shrimp, harvesting wild shrimp, eating shrimp, mangrove destruction, shrimp ponds, wild shrimp bycatch, marine stewardship council, stop eating shrimp

Farmed shrimp are raised in pools on the coast, where the tide can refresh the water and carry waste out to the sea. But according to Treehugger, these ponds are rife with massive amounts of chemicals including superphosphate and diesel. In addition to that hideous cocktail, the shrimp are exposed to even more chemicals. Pesticides, antibiotics, sodium tripolyphosphate, and borax are just a few of the toxins that get slathered over these sea bugs before people dive in with knives and forks. To make it worse, it’s estimated that nearly 40 percent of the world’s mangroves have been decimated in order to create these shrimp ponds, and those aren’t likely to recuperate any time soon: 5 square miles of mangrove is required to cultivate just a couple of pounds of shrimp, and after just a short decade of production, the area will be too toxic for use for another 40 to 50 years.

If you think that eating wild shrimp is the better/more ethical option, that’s a big “no” too. Deep-sea trawlers are used to harvest wild shrimp, and they’re not the only creatures that end up in trawling nets: up to 20 pounds of bycatch (aka unwanted species that end up netted by accident) such as sea turtles, rays, and sharks, are killed for every pound of shrimp. Try to wrap your head around that one. Some people estimate that the wild shrimp harvest is responsible for over 1/3 of the world’s bycatch, and with ocean species dwindling by the day, this method is pretty much the antithesis of sustainability.

With both farmed and wild shrimp in question, what kind of shrimp is good to eat? Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options. Some wild pink shrimp from Oregon and spot prawns from British Columbia are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, but those aren’t exactly widely available. The best option, which is a tough one, is to just stop eating shrimp altogether.

Via Treehugger

Photos by Renee Comet (Photographer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and by Unknown photographer (NOAA) (Image ID: fish0775, NOAA’s Fisheries Collection) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Craig Schaffer April 4, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    What I’ve noticed is that what is now labeled as jumbo or colossal shrimp is the size of what medium was not too long ago.

  2. Janet Braza January 13, 2015 at 3:27 am

    just like saying, “stop using plastic containers and plastic cellophane” But am sad, this my fave food, the best sea scavengers ever!

  3. Tyler Baker January 12, 2015 at 2:02 am

    i still can’t believe that so many people think that if they stop eating meat that animal abuse will stop…..look at you’re everyday house animals? a few hundred are abandoned or abused every week.

  4. Tyler Baker January 12, 2015 at 1:54 am

    thankfully, i don’t eat seafood anymore…..capt. jack’s put a stop to that…..i get ill just thinking about it!

  5. nray December 18, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    What is a short decade? How long does it take to produce a couple of pounds of shrimp in five square miles? Is borax really a toxin to marine life? Who has determined that the ecosystem recovery period is 40 – 50 years? I am appalled by the apparent extreme adverse impact that shrimp production apparently causes to marine environments, and the contribution that I’ve unwittingly made, but a report of neutral language and documented content is more effective than one that appeals to emotion.

  6. jayseafood December 9, 2014 at 11:21 am

    This is completely untrue very poor research done on this article. Please refer to http://gaalliance.org/bap/.

  7. Mary Finelli December 7, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    In addition to the horrific suffering of the immense number of fish and other aquatic animals who are incidentally killed by shrimp fishing and shrimp farming, there is compelling evidence that shrimp also suffer pain.

    The only real way to not cause this to happen is to not eat them. If you eat seafood, the great news is that there are many marvelous plant-sourced seafood options – including vegan shrimp! They are convenient, affordable and delicious. See: http://fishfeel.org/seafoodresources.php

  8. soto December 7, 2014 at 5:27 am

    Veganism is the only route when we face the atrocities of farming live species. It\’s methods leaves the worst kind of horror film standing as these methods engulf our everyday reality as the speed of light does. At least with veganism you know for certain its a way that will save the planets life forms without violence and wars against corporations (unless of course they openly force feed us their poison)

  9. Okami Minamoto December 7, 2014 at 2:25 am

    For all the ignorant sooks that just want to keep raoing this planet, piss off somewhere else.
    This is Earth. We are earthlings, and we are taking it back.

  10. babeski72 December 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    ever since i stopped supporting animal abuse and cruelty, i also stopped consuming animals including shrimp, so, no more excuses, no more shrimp for me.

  11. Mazlan Mahmood September 26, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Most of the facts are inaccurate. A shrimp farmer would go belly up if he could only get 2lbs of shrimp from a pond with an area of 5 square miles. All farms now have to be certified. The first criteria to pass the certification test is the land the farm was built on. You wont get certified if was built in mangrove areas. Statement that 35% of the worlds mangrove areas destroyed by shrimp farming, are you for real? With wild catch declining, aquaculture is the only way to go until the wild stocks in the sea are replenished and to meet demand for a cheap source of protein. Environmental Agencies are very strict with the treatment of wastes before it is discharged. Shrinps are still
    expensive so farmers are now looking at methods to get better yield per acre of land and yet be environmentally friendly. Being mostly in rural space, the farms provide jobs. My 2 cents worth. PAUL VANNAMEI

  12. kmk September 25, 2014 at 10:09 am

    How about fresh water shrimp grown in inland ponds like what they do here in Texas? http://www.aquacultureoftexas.com/farminginfo.htm I get them at the single local grocery store in my little town of under 2000 people. They aren’t much higher than the China shrimp at the Walmart in the neighboring city.

  13. André Motta September 5, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Yeah, another prove that people are still ignorant about Acquaculture. Not surprised that the text editor (the program) highlights it as a non existent word. Come on guys, you can make a better article, starting from it’s research, instead of quick share. Second tip is: when you put someones name in the game, you got to get it’s background along, not just a sensacional book title. I am an Aquaculture Engineer that has travelled around the globe studying it, and also, reading inhabitat’s articles. You are a opinion former at the point of exposition your website has, don’t play such an irresponsible role on it just to try to make it look more sustainable or “green”. Remember, it all starts by ourselves. Agree 100% with DonM, which seems to be a man of the role. Sad for such weak arguments of the people below who don’t know what they’re doing by assuming radicle postures on mainstream media information.

  14. DonM June 5, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    I guess the author of this article has been living in a cave for the last 20 or so years. Shrimp Boats have to use BRD’S ( Bycatch Reduction Devices) that greatly reduce the mortality of small fish that were once caught in trawls. There are also requirements for Shrimp Boats to use TED’S (Turtle excluder devices) that allow the turtles to escape from the nets unharmed.

    You really should be ashamed of yourself for knocking a determined breed of men and women that work in one of the most difficult industries to make a living in. They have been to hell and back and the number of people and boats left working in this industry are about 15% of what they were 20 years ago. You should be giving them credit for continuing their chosen profession defying market trends that would and have caused most people to throw in the towel.

  15. leo16983 January 24, 2014 at 5:07 am

    check out this video which sums it up! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KVJbUHGAQg&hd=1

  16. Hiroshi Casinay January 18, 2014 at 7:12 am

    Lucky enough to have shrimps fresh from the sea. They’re abundant in my hometown. I once went fishing with my father and enjoyed the freshly caught shrimp right on the spot. From the net, I clean the shrimp in the sea water and then dip in the sauce (vinegar with chopped garlic, chili and salt, that we prepared before we went fishing). The fresh crunchiness of the meat and sourness of the vinegar can make your mouth watery.

  17. Ellen Powell January 17, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Great article. I don’t eat any ocean fish- haven’t for years for many reasons. Many Gulf of Mexico shrimp, the few that are still there, are loaded with tumors, corexit, and crude oil. Many of them are being born without any eyes.

  18. Corporate Governance January 17, 2014 at 11:38 am

    This is almost too extraordinary to believe! Are there no legitimate and sustainable shrimp farms?RT me know on @ToGovern please.

  19. alfred87 January 17, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Why!, i wanted to keep eating pacefully!, now i feel bad

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