Last weekend, I had lunch with a friend and my family at Red Lobster. I had Shrimp Jambalaya and Bayou Gumbo – both contained shrimps. Thought came to mind that these shrimps were farm-raised which lead me to think about the impact of shrimp farming on local environments.
I researched and found that 75% of shrimps are farmed in China and Thailand and shipped around the world. And global shipping, as we know, is a significant contributor to global warming.
Almost all of the farm raised shrimps are either pacific white shrimps or giant tiger prawns, which are very susceptible to diseases. To combat the diseases, they are fed antibiotics which contribute to development of drug resistant bacteria in the environment.
Most shrimp farming is done in coastal areas because of the availability of salt water. This results in direct destruction (clearing) of mangrove forests. Mangrove forests are the natural hatcheries of local fishes and other wildlife. They help protect the soil from erosion. They acts as buffer and filter between the ocean and fresh water run offs.
Fertilizers are used to grow phytoplankton on which the shrimps feed. The excess fertilizer (and there’s a lot of it) gets in the local environment causing imbalance in the environment with excessive plants and algae growth. This crowds-out other local species of plants and aquatic life.
Intensive shrimp farming creates a lot of waste in the form of residual chemicals and shrimp excrement etc. This and high salt concentrations render the ponds useless within a few years. Then the shrimp farms have to move out to new land creating the same problem there.
A seemingly benign act of enjoying Shrimp Jambalaya and Bayou Gumbo has this profoundly negative impact on the environment half a world away! Should I consume shrimp in future? I sure will think about all this impact next time I see shrimp in my food.