By Fredrica Syren:
All over the world, shrimp is popular. In the United States alone, an average of 4.1 pounds of shrimp per person is consumed annually. Here in Sweden where we live, shrimp is the classic weekend food, and shrimp sandwiches are a Swedish tradition. However, the high demand for shrimp at a low price has a devastating effect on the environment.
Shrimp farms are responsible for contaminating the environment because of diseases, feces, medications and unnatural feeds leaking into the waters. Shrimp is either farmed or caught wild and, unfortunately, both alternatives have a negative ecological effect. Farmed shrimp live in pools in mangroves, coastal areas, river deltas and estuaries. They receive pesticides and antibiotics to fight diseases that can run amuck. The fish farmers’ solution is to regularly feed them antibiotics to prevent this. The pools are also pre-treated with chemicals such as urea, superphosphate and diesel. Shrimp farmers rely on the tide to circulate the water in the ponds; therefore, all the chemicals and drugs spill into the surrounding water and contaminate it.
According to National Geographic, humans have destroyed one third of the world’s mangroves in the last 20 years, and shrimp farming is responsible for 38 percent of that damage. This damage is permanent, so the mangroves will never return and the surrounding areas become wastelands. For example, some parts of Bangladesh are now unlivable for humans because of the damage done by shrimp farms.
Shrimp farming is not only damaging to our eco-system but it also affects consumers. Farmed shrimp contain pesticide residue and antibiotics, which are an instrument in the development of antibiotic-resistant super strains of bacteria.
So what about wild caught shrimp? Well, the problem with wild caught shrimp is that the deep sea trawlers used for shrimping also pick up unwanted species of fish that are then killed. It’s estimated that about 5 to 20 pounds of unwanted fish are scooped up and killed for every pound of shrimp caught. The trawlers also destroy ocean floors. The ocean system will take decades to recover from the damage. This is a problem, since 98 percent of ocean wild life live on or around sea beds.
There are very few options for finding shrimp that does not contain harmful drugs or has not somehow negatively affected an ecosystem. Shrimp farms, like meat and fish farms, are businesses out to make lots of money fast. Consumers’ and the planet’s health are not their number one priority. Because consumers demanded organic and humanely raised meat, this became a business model, and today we can find these options at grocery stores. As with the meat industry, unless we consumers demand better and healthier options, there won’t be any.