Friday, September 30, 2016
Like Bubba from the movie "Forrest Gump" said: "Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. There's shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich..."
Americans eat a lot of shrimp. An average of 4.1 pounds per person annually. But the unfortunate fact is that the process that delivers bags of frozen shrimp to your grocery store at cheap prices has devastating ecological consequences.
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Shrimp is either farmed or wild, but neither option is good for the environment. Farmed shrimp are kept in pools on the coast, where the tide can refresh the water and carry waste out to sea. Ponds are prepared with heavy doses of chemicals such as urea, superphosphate, and diesel. Then the shrimp receive pesticides, antibiotics (some that are banned in the U.S., but used overseas), piscicides (fish-killing chemicals like chlorine), sodium tripolyphosphate, borax, and caustic soda.
Shrimp farmers have destroyed an estimated 38 percent of the world's mangroves to create shrimp ponds, and the damage is permanent. Not only do the mangroves not return long after production has ended, but the surrounding areas become wastelands. It takes five square miles of cleared mangrove forest to produce just over two pounds of shrimp -- and that land is typically left depleted within ten years and rendered unusable for another forty.
According to Jill Richardson's informative article called "Shrimp's Dirty Secrets: Why America's Favorite Seafood is a Health and Ecological Nightmare," wild shrimp isn't a better option because it usually involves the use of deep-sea trawlers, which kills 5 to 20 pounds of 'bycatch' (unwanted species of fish accidentally scooped up by the trawler's net) for every pound of shrimp. Trawling is comparable to bulldozing an entire section of rainforest to catch a single species of bird.
The best option probably won't appeal to some people just stop eating shrimp. Until production standards change dramatically, buying shrimp only perpetuates a horrible system; and it's unlikely that production will change if demand continues at its current level.