You Little Shrimp

When you hear shrimp, what's the first thought that comes to mind? Most likely it's shrimp cocktail or Thai prawns or, if you're thinking me...


When you hear shrimp, what's the first thought that comes to mind? Most likely it's shrimp cocktail or Thai prawns or, if you're thinking metaphorically, maybe scrawny. Chances are, you don't think mangroves. But those little pink crustaceans impact mangrove forests, which in turn impact everything from Bengal tigers to climate change. shrimp2.pngShrimp is the most popular seafood in the United States; Americans consume over a billion pounds per year. Almost all shrimp in the U.S., 90%, is imported from coastal countries in South America and Southeast Asia. There, shrimp are raised on shrimp farms. Much like mammal factory farms, shrimp farms confine thousands of shrimp per pond. This causes many of the same problems: dangerous concentrations of waste, rapid spread of bacteria, and feed laced with antibiotics to keep animals alive. But that's par for the course as far as intensive animal farming goes. What's extra fishy about shrimp is the environment in which they're raised: former mangrove swamps. Mangroves_in_Puerto_Rico.png

  • Mangroves are trees that grow in tropical saltwater swamps. The mangrove ecosystem...
  • Shields villages from tsunamis & hurricanes
  • Provides one of the last remaining habitats for wild Bengal tigers
  • Filters water, promoting the health of neighboring coral reefs
  • Absorbs 5x more carbon than rainforests

But mangroves are being cut down in order to build shrimp farms. So far more than 3 million acres of mangroves have been destroyed - over 1/3 of the world's total mangroves. This is disastrous for local communities, ecosystems, and the global climate.


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If farmed shrimp are so bad, then wild-caught shrimp must be the answer! Think again. Wild shrimp are caught using a method called trawling; boats haul giant nets behind them, scraping up everything in their path. 

Trawling catches many other ocean creatures, called bycatch, which are killed by the trawling nets and thrown back into the ocean. Shrimp fishing kills more bycatch than any other type of fishing; the ratio of bycatch to shrimp is 20:1. In the Gulf of Mexico, one common victim of shrimp trawling bycatch is sea turtles. But wild-caught shrimp from Southeast Asia isn't the answer either; the fishing industry there is rife with human trafficking and slavery.


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So the next time you spot shrimp scampi on the menu, think of mangroves and sea turtles and ask yourself - are those tiny crustaceans really worth the devastation? For more information, check out this great video: Infographic from the Mangrove Action Project: Human trafficking: Environmental devastation: Trawling bycatch:  


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