Taz Loomans

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! We eat 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 swaths 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 prepared with heavy doses of chemicals, such as urea, superphosphate and diesel. Then the shrimp receive pesticides, antibiotics, piscicides, sodium tripolyphosphate, borax and caustic soda. In addition, shrimp farmers have permanently destroyed an estimated 38 percent of the world’s mangroves to create these shrimp ponds. Treehugger’s Stephen Messenger wrote last year, “it takes five square miles of cleared mangrove forest to produce just over two pounds of shrimp — and that land is typically left depleted within 10 years and rendered unusable for another forty.”

Wild shrimp don’t fare any better when it comes to the environment. Harvesting wild shrimp is usually done by using deep-sea trawlers, which kill 5 to 20 pounds of “bycatch” (unwanted species accidentally scooped up by the trawler’s net) for every pound of shrimp. That’s like bulldozing an entire section of the rainforest to catch one single species of bird. The bycatch can include animals like sharks, rays, starfish, juvenile red snapper, and sea turtles among others. Jill Richardson tells us in her article “Shrimp’s Dirty Secrets: Why America’s Favorite Seafood is a Health and Ecological Nightmare” that while shrimp trawl fisheries only represent 2 percent of the global fish catch, they are responsible for over one-third of the world’s bycatch.

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 are not widely available. The best option, which is a tough one, is to just stop eating shrimp at this point.

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. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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

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

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