To me, the biggest problem with shrimp is that many shrimp trawlers are still not using–or not using properly–the turtle extruder devices, designed to let sea turtles escape from the shrimp nets. When the TEDs are not used or do not work properly, sea turtles get scooped up in the nets and drown as they are dragged behind the boat and cannot come up for air. Until shrimp can be certified turtle safe, I will not eat it. Now here are some more reasons to think twice before buying shrimp (thanks to Food and Water Watch):
Mangroves – tropical coastal forests – are clear cut to make room for shrimp farms. Mangroves serve as spawning and nursery grounds for thousands of marine organisms and protect the coastline. Shrimp farms depend on staggering amounts of antibiotics, fungicides, algaecides and pesticides that pollute the water and marine life, including other fish.
Consumers’ Health Pays
Antibiotics are used in shrimp farms to prevent the spread of viruses. One such virus, the White Spot Virus, decimated farms throughout Asia and Central America in the 1990’s. Even when the virus doesn’t obliterate the farm, it survives freezing and may still exist when the shrimp finds its way to the consumer’s plate. To prevent outbreaks, companies pump thousands of tons of antibiotics into the farms.
One antibiotic – Chloramphenicol – is banned in the United States, but the US imports shrimp from countries that use it. Chloramphenicol is linked to human aplastic anemia – a lethal blood disorder, intestinal problems, neurological reactions and other health concerns. Unfortunately, the US does not have a rigorous inspection program for imported shrimp. Thailand, China, Vietnam and Ecuador all use this antibiotic in their shrimp farms and they send thousands of pounds of shrimp to the US every year, jeopardizing consumers’ health.
Cost to Local Communities
Traditionally, local communities depend on the mangroves for their survival. Women gather shellfish, mussels, crabs and other seafood to feed their families and to sell in local markets. Fishermen gain access to the sea through the mangroves, which they can no longer do when the shrimp farms are constructed. Due to cheap farm raised shrimp, American shrimpers are forced to sell their boats and coastal communities in the Global South are left without their livelihood, food and culture.