The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch is where savvy consumers of seafood go to track what kind of seafood to eat so that they can have the lowest environmental impact possible. The seafood industry is notoriously complex and hard to track, so the aquarium, in its efforts to push for greater sustainability, has continually curated their Seafood Watch List.
While there are many “Good” and “Good Alternative” sources of farmed shrimp, the majority of farmed shrimp that is produced worldwide falls into the “Avoid” category. If the industry is going to reach its potential both economically and environmentally, this must change.
Why this matters
For the aquaculture industry to continue to grow it needs to increase overall demand in western countries. One of the biggest reasons consumers choose other animals proteins over seafood and especially over farmed seafood is their perception that farmed seafood is dirty. This is both in terms of the meat itself due to the perceived conditions of the production system and the environmental impact these systems have.
If western consumers are going to begin more largely adopting seafood into their diets and farmed seafood in particular not only does the industry need to do better marketing of itself, but the bottom line facts around its sustainability and health need to change.
How farmed shrimp can lead the industry in sustainability
We believe that farmed shrimp has an incredible opportunity to actually lead the push in sustainability. As we’ve noted in other posts, there exist a number of profit-generating practices that improve any given farms environmental impact. From recycling and processing effluent on the farm to preserve the nutrients in it, to selecting higher quality sources of feed that promote faster growth rates.
The beauty of farmed shrimp and pond-aquaculture in general is that unlike mariculture or ocean-based aquaculture, pond-based farmers have a theoretical level of control over their production systems. They can choose what inputs go into a given pond and impact what will come out of it. To this degree its like indoor farming is to outdoor, where indoor the farmer has far more control over the variables that can impact the health and growth rate of their crop.
We don’t yet know all of the new technologies and techniques that will emerge in shrimp production sites, but given this higher level of control, we argue that farmers have a greater chance to be leading the industry on this front, rather than salmon, which has historically taken charge.
Steps we’re seeing now
Things are moving in positive directions. Groups like the Shrimp Sustainable Partnership are holding themselves to the highest standards and also pushing for a price premium in return. BAP has certified more sites than it ever has before in its history. Chinese consumers are becoming more health conscious as the negative perceptions of some aquaculture practices have spread into the country. Pressure is mounting. Let’s see shrimp leapfrog salmon and take the lead.
With Osmobot monitoring each pond, we’re certainly pushing to enable such a future.