Being a pescatarian allows me to enjoy fish a few times a week and ensure I'm getting enough protein, calcium, and omega 3 fatty acids for the health of my body.
Not all fish are equal so I'm vigilant about choosing the highest quality fish for ecological sustainability and low toxicity.
While I consume fish, I have never enjoyed the taste of shrimp but recognize that this is a minority experience.
Americans alone consume 4.10 billion pounds of shrimp every year (data from 2010).
But guess what? While they might taste good going down, there is a whole lot missing from this picture that needs some education, as shrimp production has a huge impact on the einvlorment and our own health.
Even though you might hear a lot about choosing wild vs. farmed fish, wild shrimp are caught using fine mesh nets which end up scooping up many other fish--known as bycatch--which are simply disposed and not sold.
In fact 1.8 million tons of wasted marine life is produced every year due to shrimping. Luckily fishermen are mandated to install turtle excluder devices which prevent endangered sea turtles from getting caught and killed, but no such luck for other ocean life.
This method also hurts underwater habitats like coral reefs as the nets scrape near the ocean bottom to collect the little crawlers.
What to do? As a conscious consumer there are a few "Best Choices" for wild shrimp which minimize bycatch and are sourced sustainably:
- Spot Prawns from British Columbia, Canada
- Coonstripe, Northern, Pink & Sidestripe Shrimp from Alaska
Turning to farmed shrimp we enter a whole different universe. The majority of shrimp are not only farmed, but they are imported from countries that have very little regulation (Asia and South America).
Similar to modern-day factory farm feedlots, shrimp farms result in environmental havoc for coastal eco-system and mangrove forests.
Shrimp swim in tainted water, given a huge amount of feed to quickly fatten them up, and antibiotics are used to mitigate disease outbreaks caused by the crowded conditions.
As a consumer the first thing to do is to look at the country of origin label (required by law) when buying shrimp at the store. When you're eating out, make sure to ask the waitstaff where the shrimp is from.
Here are the best choices for farmed shrimp:
- U.S. Farmed Giant River & Malaysian Prawn Freshwater Shrimp
- U.S. Farmed in Fully Recirculating Systems of Inland Ponds Pacific White and West Coast White Shrimp
- Southeast Asia Black Tiger or Tiger Shrimp / Farmed, Selva Shrimp Verified Farms
If you are a shrimp lover please spread the word and let us create a win/win, for our personal health and the health of our eco-system.
Especially the oceans, they need a few friends!