We have been talking a lot about shrimp farming lately, since we are putting the finishing touches on Raising Shrimp. We have mentioned some of the environmental damage it can cause, but unfortunately this does not mean that wild shrimp is always the best alternative. In fact, shrimp boats using bottom trawlers can have a devastating impact on the ocean, removing any living creature in their paths.
There are some sources of wild shrimp that can be great though. The Monterey Bay Aquarium‘s Seafood Watch program recommends the spot prawns of the Canadian and US Pacific. Spot prawns are caught in trap, have less bycatch (which can be controlled more easily) and less damage to the bottom (although there can be an issue if the traps are dragged or bounce onto fragile corals).
Trawlers can devastate the ocean floor, leaving mud tracks behind. Duke University biologists Kyle Van Houtan and Daniel Pauly have recorded these in satellite photos. Here is just one of them:
See those squiggly lines? Those are the tracks left behind from trawlers. The nets are dragging behind them. Sometimes when damage like this is done in the ocean, we have a hard time understanding the impacts because we are so far removed from the water. So let’s put it this way: if trawling were happening on land, it would be like driving massive lawn mowers through forests and scooping up everything in their paths for thousands of miles. Sure, trees can grow back. The animals that are scooped away and killed can be replaced with new ones. But how long will that take? And will everything be back to normal afterwards?
Eating seafood can be a tricky activity. It is hard to know what the best source is by just reading the signs at the supermarket. Luckily for us, we can check online or even consult an app in our phone to see if the seafood we are eating is good for us and for the environment. With shrimp being as popular as it is, we should hope that everyone takes a moment to check.