By Chris Adams
In the 1960s and 1970s, 70 percent of shrimp consumed in the United States was wild and domestically caught.
Then demand for shrimp skyrocketed – and so did fishing methods for it.
Today, 90 percent of shrimp consumed in the U.S. is imported, much of it farmed. It comes from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, India and Ecuador. And with shrimp farming practices comes overuse of chemicals and antibiotics, as well as negative impacts on coastal ecosystems.
In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Josh Madeira of the Monterey Bay Aquarium used shrimp as a case study of how a seafood sector can change over time, with the prodding of governments and other outside organizations.
Madeira described the Southeast Asia Fisheries and Aquaculture Initiative, jointly managed by the aquarium and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Announced in 2018, the initiative is designed to bring 20,000 small-scale shrimp farms in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam to a level equivalent to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program’s green “Best Choice” certification by 2025.
The effort is designed to train shrimp farmers in sustainable practices. Vietnam is one of the world’s top producers of shrimp.
“A lot of the typical solutions that have worked in other countries do not work in southeast Asia,” Madeira said. That means backers of the program have to first start by listening to stakeholders in the industry – and only then by seeking to change their longstanding practices.