Finding sustainable sources of seafood is becoming increasingly difficult. Should you buy farmed or wild caught? And what are the most sustainable choices? I’ve talked about sustainable seafood before, and since shrimp is the most commonly consumed seafood in the United States, you might want to have a bit more information about that shrimp cocktail you’re about to eat.
Did you know Americans ate 1.2 Billion pounds of shrimp in 2007, an average of 4.1 pounds of shrimp per person (figures here)? This figure is actually a decline from the previous year, in 2006, when the average American ate 4.4 pounds of shrimp. Now if you consider that 85% of shrimp consumed in the US is imported, and since wild caught shrimp are rarer than ever as fisheries are depleted, there’s a good chance that the shrimp you just ate were farmed and imported to the US.
Since there is a good chance that your shrimp is farmed, you should know exactly how it was farmed, and what inputs were used to produce those shrimp. From the book BottomFeeder: How To Eat Ethically In A World of Vanishing Seafood by author Taras Grescoe, here’s a description of how an overseas farmed shrimp pond is prepared:
“…by spreading urea and superphosphate to encourage plankton growth. Once the pond has been filled with brackish water, generally pumped from a nearby creek, it is typically covered with diesel oil to kill off any insect larvae. The water is then treated with piscicide – a substance that poisons any competing aquatic life- such as chlorine or rotenone; the latter has been strongly linked to Parkinson’s disease in humans…”
Mmm…tasty. Now once the shrimp are growing in their pond, a rotation of pesticides, piscicide, and antibiotics are continually administered to the pond. Antibiotics that are sometimes used include Chloramphenicol and Nitrofurans which are suspected carcinogens. And as with any CAFO type operation, any time antibiotics are used this prolifically, antibiotic resistant bacteria can sprout up.
I highly recommended you read the entry on La Vida Locavore (a very entertaining and informative blog) entitled Why You Really Don’t Want to Eat Shrimp which has more information on the dangers of farmed shrimp and was the inspiration behind this post.
If you want to try and find the most sustainable fish possible, read How to Find the Most Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Fish for Your Dinner Table. The article contains a link to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium website that allows you to search by type of fish for the most environmentally friendly fish options.
Photo Credit: Public Domain on Wikimedia Commons