Most people I know love to eat shrimp. Most people I know who eat shrimp have no idea where it came from, or how it got to their plate.
When people ask me what they can do to help the oceans, my immediate response is to say, “don’t eat shrimp!” Shrimp fisheries are the most destructive in the world and eating shrimp can be one of the worst things you can do to the oceans and to coastal communities.
For every wild caught shrimp, an estimated 8-10 animals are taken as bycaught– meaning they are caught accidentally and usually killed and discarded. This often includes endangered species such as sea turtles, as well as protected and undersize fish, as well as species such like sea stars and sponges that may be of little direct value to us, but are crucial in maintaining marine ecosystems.
Today, the majority of shrimp we consume is produced in farms. As in any modern industry, technology has revolutionized the production and distribution of shrimp. Today, shrimp once caught solely in the wild, can be farmed, processed, packed, and shipped to destinations worldwide in a matter of days. In 30 years, the shrimp industry has been revolutionized through an unprecedented increase in efficient production, resulting in tremendous profitability for producers. However, the “shrimp boom” is sustained through a staggering, largely hidden, cost to workers, their families, and the environment. Not for the first time, the drive to make a product for the world market quickly and cheaply leaves a trail of abuse, misery, and damaged lives. The true cost of shrimp is not what is seen on a supermarket price tag or a restaurant menu.
Fortunately, not all shrimp is derived from destructive sources, or tainted by labor abuses. For those who can’t live without shrimp, sustainable shrimp fisheries, both wild and farmed do exist, but their products need to be carefully and determinedly sought. So look around for the best option, which usually means eating local, seasonal shrimp.
There is a lot of information online now, so there is no excuse. Don’t be afraid to ask where the shrimp at your local market, or super market came from, and if shrimp is on the menu next time you head out, use your voice to encourage change.
For more information, blogs and articles, visit – www.shrimsuck.org