(Michael Berrill firstname.lastname@example.org)
Do you eat shrimp?
Few tastes are finer than that of freshly cooked shrimp. But shrimp are expensive to buy, and therefore valuable to fish for, or to farm. And because of their value, in many places a lot of damage is done in the process.
Where they are trawled up from the sea bottom where they aggregate, the trawls may do immense damage to the bottom ecosystems, and everything else caught by the trawls is thrown back as as dead or damaged bycatch. Sometimes 90% of the catch is bycatch, discarded because its value is too little, or because there is no market for it, or because the fishing vessel is licensed to catch shrimp only. The bycatch in global fisheries is staggering – it could be as high as 30% of the total catch – and the most wasteful fishery of all is shrimp trawling.
Shrimp farming might seem to be the solution, but shrimp farms have replaced mangroves in many tropical regions, and we now know just how valuable mangroves are as nurseries for juvenile fish, habitat for shrimp, and protection of coastlines from storm damage. Yet in many places, mangroves have been largely eliminated to make space for shrimp ponds. In the short term, the ponds seem just too valuable. In the long term, they have done more immense damage.
Shrimp farms well buffered by mangroves are a partial solution, for eliminating the farms is not a likely outcome. Strict regulations on bottom trawling help, for trawling can be controlled, even if it can’t be eliminated.
Even better is watching carefully what shrimp you eat. Large tiger shrimp? Avoid them. Farmed shrimp? If they come from mangrove regions, avoid them until mangroves are properly protected.
Instead, try the cold water shrimp – like the Oregon pink shrimp, and the North Atlantic or northern shrimp, with the lovely name of Pandalus borealis. They are smaller, but they are sweet, and they are really quite wonderful, particularly when lightly sauteed.
Both of these shrimp are recommended by two of the most helpful organizations involved in certifying which fish species are being fished sustainably, and which should be avoided. It’s worth checking either site to see what other species you ought to avoid, and which you should look for:
The Marine Stewardship Council – http://www.msc.org/
Seafood Watch – http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_regional.aspx
And it’s worth taking the list along with you to supermarkets and restaurants, and insist on buying or eating only species that have been certified as coming from sustainable fisheries.