MBA, FishWise investigate shrimp farming


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
December 17, 2009

Both the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) and FishWise are working on reports detailing the domestic and international shrimp farming industries.

Peter Bridson, MBA’s aquaculture research manager, told SeaFood Business magazine that the Monterey, Calif., organization will release a series of reports on international shrimp farming throughout 2010.

Currently, imported farmed shrimp is ranked red, or “avoid,” in the MBA’s Seafood Watch seafood-buying guide. While it was too early in the process for Bridson to announce a rating change for imported farmed shrimp, he acknowledged that the industry, especially in Southeast Asia, has changed dramatically.

That includes a shift from black tigers to Pacific white shrimp, which have a more disease-free and disease-resistant larvae, and a move toward closed systems in which the water volume is maintained through one or more growing cycles, noted Bridson.

While pressure from suppliers is partly responsible for the changes, Bridson said economics and practical considerations, such as a need to avoid white spot disease, are mainly responsible for the new approach to farming.

Reports on Thailand and Mexico will be available in early 2010, followed by ones on shrimp farming in Ecuador, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, FishWise in Santa Cruz, Calif., will release a report in January on the sustainability of the U.S. farmed shrimp market. Sian Morgan, director of science at FishWise and a co-author of the report with science analyst Victoria Galitzine, said the industry is ranked using five sustainability criteria: use of marine resources, risk of escaped fish to wild stocks, risk of disease and parasite transfer to wild stocks, risk of pollution and habitat effects and management effectiveness. Together, these are used to generate a “traffic light” score, via assessment methods designed by MBA.

Much of the U.S. farmed shrimp industry, which is based in Texas, is ranked yellow, meaning the shrimp is a “good alternative” if a green, or “best choice,” isn’t available. Most coastal Texas farms are open systems where some farm waters are exchanged regularly with coastal ecosystems. Green operations use either closed, recirculating systems or inland ponds, minimizing biosecurity risks.

For an in-depth look at the farmed shrimp industry, check out the Top Species feature, by contributing editor Joanne Friedrick, in the upcoming January issue of SeaFood Business.

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