In January 14th, 2014 Katherine Martinko wrote that Americans shouldn’t eat shrimp, neither coming from wild nor from farms, because both bring devastating consequences to the environment. Based on Martinko research over the Jill Richardson´s article [Alternet], all farmed shrimp are kept in pools on the coast previously prepared with heavy doses of chemicals such as urea, superphosphate, and diesel, and also receiving pesticides, banned antibiotics, caustic sodas, etc. Let´s review this first part of the article.
In some countries in asia, farmers use to prepare the water prior the use in the growing ponds with some non traditional or unimaginable products like Martinko says but, shrimp farming is not the same in all countries around the world. Social and environmental issues together with technical protocols are very different among them. I agree with Jill Richardson when she said Americans don’t know where their shrimp comes from or what’s in it. Because of this, better if you pay attention where the shrimp you are eating is coming from.
Yes, some farmers use antibiotics [some of them internationally banned] trying to prevent or control diseases, most of the time, unsuccessfully because nobody can inject or give some pills with antibiotics to the shrimp, or use them directly into the water, instead of this, some antimicrobials can be added to feed as a carrier which is also not efficient enough to control any disease, and the leaking of antibiotics into the water is a real issue. On this matter, many countries work very hard on the control of antibiotic residuals for each importation. Nowadays, the European Union [EU] call to authorities in India to pay control on the use of antibiotics on shrimp farming or the exportation to this community will be banned. In theory, the use of antibiotics is banned in this industry, and their use is not successfully achieved for the main purpose. In some countries, probably, authority don´t carry out with enough responsibility the control for the use of these antimicrobials in all stages of shrimp culture, which involve hatcheries and farms. However, it is not difficult to conduct.
Regarding the by-catch collected by trawlers and used in the manufacture of feeds for shrimp and other animals, we may think this is a process to transfer protein from non-favorite or unwanted species of fish to favorite seafood. Shrimp farming industry is working very hard to substitute fish meal as the main component in the feed. Stocking the ponds using wild post larvae is not happening anymore, this is because the efforts of the industry to be independent from the wild. This criterion reduced to zero the impact over different wild stocks of other crustaceans and small fish formerly captured together with wild shrimp post larvae.
Depending on the source of the product we can find many unwanted components, including bacteria. Escherichia coli can be found in milk, yoghurt, sausage, lettuce, eggs, beef, pork and other food, however is not common to find this bacteria in shrimp. E. coli cells cannot be easily washed from plant parts or be killed and removed by disinfectants and washing. Enteric bacteria are not common in marine environments because they are subjected to simultaneous stresses whose impact on cell metabolism will lead to either their maintenance or their decay in marine environments. Most common are bacteria from the genus Vibrio with some members very pathogenic like Vibrio parahaemolyticus inhabiting marine, brackish, and estuarine waters worldwide. Fortunately this vibrio like others at −20°C which is the processing temperature at packing plants had a detrimental effect on growth.
To be sure about the quality of shrimp you are eating, representatives of the American government or major importers from any country must determine by on-site inspection whether any exporting company with destinations to USA is complying with the sanitary and quality control protocols.
False [Ponds are prepared with heavy doses of chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics and diesel]
Shrimp is very sensitive for a lot of chemicals and the use of pesticides or diesel is completely contrary to most basic criteria on their husbandry process. Shrimp will die instantly in the presence of any of these chemicals, so the action of some products used in asian countries [if any] is previously neutralized before stocking the postlarvae. Urea, superphosphate and other phosphates are inorganic fertilizers, the same used in agriculture. These products are required to promote the Phytoplankton [micro algae in the water column] and turn the water for rearing much more appropriate to the animals, this is because phytoplankton will produce oxygen during sunlight and CO2 at night, who will be used again as ‘food’ by the micro algae next day. The cycle oxygen-CO2 is kept during the entire production period allowing each pond act as a micro system. Caustic soda is an inorganic compound normally used at farms to keep the pH stability in the water controlling alkalinity, this means, allowing to keep water parameters more stable. Do not forget that Caustic soda [or Calcium hydroxide] is also used for drinking water. Other products like Calcium carbonates [CO3Ca or limestones] also could be used to stabilize pH in the water or soil. These products are simple crushed rock [calcite mineral].
False [mangroves are disappearing by shrimp farming]
Not reliable numbers about the total mangrove surface area destroyed to build shrimp farms. By one hand, not all the farms are located in mangrove areas because is not suitable for shrimp farming, and because deserted areas are also used for this activity. In some countries, mangrove areas destroyed by shrimp farming are in a recovery process due to environmental regulations, and also it is not true that these areas couldn´t be recovered or the damage is permanent. In Latin American countries, shrimp farming is done with environmentally friendly criteria, and this means practicing anything that guarantee sustainability for the environment and the business, considered two interrelated components. If no healthy environment, no good results in farming and no profit.
It is a joke to hear that someone required five square miles of mangrove forest to grow up two pounds of shrimp, because any kind of operation couldn´t survive with this number.
Jaymi Heimbuch [Science / Natural Sciences] also published in Treehugger.com that shrimp farming is expanding at the expense of local ecosystems and the people who rely on them. This sound very terrible but for sure Jaymi Heimbuch or Kennedy Warne did not visited enough countries to have a better idea about shrimp farming and how most of the people from one community cannot survive at expenses of the mangrove. Do they have any statistics about the global shrimp farming and their impact to the mangroves or over the people living around these forests? Jaymi mentioned Elaine Corets’ comments about the requirement of 2-3 pounds of feed to produce one pound of shrimp. Well, obviously these farmers are going to be out of the business soon, because this scenario is not economically viable for anybody, so you do not have to be worry anymore for them. “More traditional products like Salmon is considered to have the highest FCR for any farmed livestock product at about 1.2 to 1. Common farm animal equivalents, by way of example are: approximately 8 to 1 for most ruminants (i.e. sheep and cattle), around 3.5 to 1 for pork and 2 to 1 for poultry, fowl and rabbits” as the farm expert Taiss Quartapa stated. Shrimp industry is always working on new strategies, one of them is feeding shrimp using acoustic methods, improving a lot the way to feed the animals and reducing significantly the FCR [feed conversion rate], very close to 1, this mean producing one pound of shrimp using a little bit more than one pound of feed.
In Ecuador, many fishermen moved to the shrimp farming and now are enjoying the benefits of the activity, you can see directly from the official website of the Ministry of Aquaculture and Fisheries of Ecuador [http://www.acuaculturaypesca.gob.ec/subpesca3003-codaesvir-incrementa-produccion-en-camaronera-entregada-por-el-estado.html]. According to CLIRSEN [Centro de Levantamientos Integrados por Sensores Remotos] using satellites for Natural Resources Mapping, in 1969 the total mangrove area in Ecuador were 203,695.1 ha, no shrimp farms at this time and 51,495.3 ha of Salt flats were accounted. In 2006 the mangrove area represented 148,230.23 ha, Shrimp farms 175,748.55 ha and Salt flats were 3,705.77 ha. This means a reduction of 55,464.87 ha of mangrove and 47,789.53 ha of Salt flats. Assuming that all the mangrove and Salt flats areas were lost for farms [not considering the cities development], this means 103,254.4 ha converted to shrimp farms, the remaining 72,494.15 ha were the remaining Flatlands and land dedicated to agriculture to complete the number in 2006. In 2008 by Presidential Executive decision, a new regulation [decree 1391] for the use of land involving mangrove areas, shrimp farms and beaches was decreed, here, reforestation of mangrove areas was one of the main goals for the government. Many shrimp farms were evicted representing more than 2,495 ha and reforestation process started recovering former mangrove areas. No data was found at the moment from CLIRSEN showing results until 2017. Of course, 55,464.87 ha of mangrove transformed into shrimp farms, if this is the case, is a big fraction of forest with many environmental functions lost, however, in Ecuador mangrove areas are not disappearing, now they are protected by law.
In Brazil, environmental authorities do not permit setting up one 50 m3 tank for aquaculture purposes without professional projects on hands and environmental impact assessment previously done by competent authority prior to get a license for operation. Here is not as easy like in other countries. Only small farmers [fishermen] are freed to grow shrimp without these restrictions but they must be registered with the authority. Based on fdaimports.com on June 1, 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) published a notice to lift the antidumping duties imposed on Brazilian frozen warm water shrimp, while extending the antidumping duties currently imposed on shrimp from four Asian countries (China, Vietnam, Thailand, and India) for an additional five years. Because antidumping taxes enforced by the american authorities, Brazil started to develop its domestic market with excellent results until these days, enjoying market prices for the farmed shrimp higher than the international ones.
Brazilian farmers were recently hit by WSSV [white spot syndrome virus], however, they are still producing with different strategies. Super intensive recirculating systems with the capacity to produce more than 50 MT per hectare of 18 gram shrimp in 100 days of culture are already in operation. Facilities like these ones recirculate the water to the production units in a natural way using sedimentation lined ponds, fish [tilapia] and natural bacteria for degrading the organic matter.
Farmers involved with deforestation of mangrove and bad management practices in the shrimp industry, are condemned to failure, because shrimp farming also needs a healthy environment.