Today’s catch of the day – shrimp. In America, they have surpassed canned tuna as the most popular seafood people eat. From shrimp cocktail to barbequed shrimp to coconut shrimp… you know there are almost infinite ways to prepare these bite-size critters. We all remember this scene from Forrest Gump:
The shrimp we eat comes from two sources: farmed and wild caught. Which is better?
Shrimp farming can cause habitat destruction (the ecologically important mangrove habitat) and pollution in the form of waste, excess feed and chemicals like antibiotics. They also feed from fish feed (made of fish taken out of the ocean!)
The majority of the shrimp we eat is imported from Asian shrimp farms (90%!) and the way they farm them makes a big difference. There are open water farms that release all the water they use directly into the oceans, which is very damaging to the environment. Then there are closed-system farms that recirculate their water, and inland ponds that don’t release their water directly into the ocean. Only one kind of Asian shrimp farming (raised in Vietnam and other parts of southeast Asia) has been certified a “best choice” by Seafood Watch, and that’s Selva black tiger shrimp farms. Selva shrimp farms raise shrimp on mangrove forests naturally- the shrimp feed off the natural detritus from the forests.
Eating wild-caught shrimp, while relatively less polluting, holds another set of problems. Wild shrimp are caught by shrimp trawlers that drag huge nets that scrape the ocean floor and take everything in their paths with them. Most shrimpers use sea turtle exclusion devices but this does little else in terms of bycatch since they routinely harvest many small fish like juvenile red snappers, seahorses and invertebrates like sponges and corals.
But shrimp are not just food. Biologically they are an important part of the food chain. They feed everything from fish to whales!
We’ll be talking a lot about shrimp because we are just completing our newest documentary “Raising Shrimp”. For seafood that we eat so much of, it’s amazing how little we know about it. What would you like to know about shrimp?
Photo source: Wiki commons / National Cancer Institute Author: Renee Comet (photographer)