Aquaculture

Shrimp Farms

What is Aquaculture?

Aquaculture is the farming or breeding of fish, crustaceans, mollusks and aquatic plants in both salt and fresh water environments - including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean -specifically for human consumption. The conditions within the farming area, including food intake and protection from predators, are controlled to optimize the population.

Where are shrimp farmed?

Shrimp are commonly farmed in countries such as the U.S., China, Thailand, India, Vietnam, Brazil, Ecuador, and Bangladesh. 95% of shrimp are raised in open-air ponds. Shrimp aquaculture mostly takes place in the neritic zone, near the shore. Aquacultural breeding for other organisms can take place throughout the water column in the oceanic zone.


  • The U.S. does most of its farming indoors and in small tanks to prevent disease, to produce year round, and to control variables
  • American Shrimp farming is common in areas such as Texas, Louisiana, Florida's west coast, and the Gulf of Mexico

Types of shrimp that are farmed

Generally, people like to catch brown, pink, and white shrimp. However, Pacific White Shrimp (Penaeus vanneamei) and Giant Tiger Prawn (Penaeus monodon) are commonly eaten around the world, and account for 80% of shrimp production. 55% of shrimp produce is accounted for by aquaculture.

The Farming Method

Artificial hatcheries produce either nauplii (shrimp embryos) or postlarvae (young shrimp) that are exported to farms. First they are placed in nurseries or raceways - areas with heavily controlled conditions and constant water flow to get the organisms accustomed to marine conditions. Afterwards, they are moved to segregated areas called 'grow-out ponds'. Within these ponds, the shrimp mature to marketable size, until they are fished or the water is drained out. Farms generally produce two harvests a year.

Environmental Effects

  • The organic waste, chemicals, salt, and antibiotics, found in shrimp farms, can pollute nearby water sources, such as the city's groundwater and estuaries.
  • Whenever a shrimp catches a disease, their sickness becomes very contagious and can wipe out the entire population. Because shrimp love to swim near the surface of the water, they can easily get caught and eaten by birds. When birds eat diseased shrimp, they tend to pass on the disease to other locations. This causes many shrimp farms to shut down, thus putting jobs at risk.
  • Many Asian Mangrove trees are being destroyed because of salt leakage in aquifer systems. It has been causing major disruptions in various habitats and has caused a loss of buffer systems for coastal storms.

Shrimp Farming Regulations

The U.S. and Europe have banned imported shrimp from some Southeast Asian countries due to the cancer the antibiotics cause. However, because of the high demand for shrimp, the US has been spending a lot of money abroad, indirectly encouraging pollution and dangerous foreign trades. This has stirred concern with the government and has driven them to create more sustainable and conscious shrimp farms. But, because of the lack of awareness, rules, and certain economic limitations, chances of mitigating adverse environmental effects realistically have been low. In terms of prohibitions, safety precautions and standards have also been installed in shrimp farming to make the process more environmentally friendly.

If the government managed to ban the import of shrimp properly, it would lower its negative ecological effects. At the same time, however, consumers' high demand of shrimp would not be satistfied.

Sustainability

Alternative fishing methods to aquaculture do not prove to be more sustainable as aquaculture itself, since they including wild fishing and effects on real wildlife. The solution to sustainability is to modify the conditions of aquaculture to include only plant-based feeds and no wild-life caught open water to ensure no harmful toxin discharge into the water. Additionally, practices should be not detrimental to the local resources and community of the area.

Consumers can ensure that they are abiding by sustainable practices by consulting retailers, Greenpeace, and NOAA. Unfortunately, no official certification system exists to designate which fish farms are used fro which programs.

Economic Value

  • Shrimp is the most economically valuable marine product in the world
  • In 2005, farming shrimp was a 10.6 billion dollar industry
  • Production has been growing 10% every year
  • The U.S. consumes an average of 4 pounds a year of shrimp per capita