HELLO loyal readers. I realize my posts have pretty much stopped, so I’m going to unstop the stop right now with this lovely PSA.
First of all, lets talk mangroves. Last Thursday, we held class outdoors in the beautiful Lac Cai to measure sea grass growth and to collect endobenthos samples along the patches of mangroves. To simplify a potentially complex description, mangroves are trees specially adapted to grow in intertidal, high salt conditions. Their adaptations include roots that prop up the tree to avoid being smothered by high tides, reverse osmosis mechanisms that manufacture fresh water from salt water, and even these awesome torpedo shaped seeds (propagules) that drop into the water and can change densities so they can “choose” when they want to sink themselves into the mud! Wow! How cool!
Anyway, mangroves are also pretty important to the environment. By pretty important I mean:
- They are an essential habitat for juvenile fish
- They improve coastal water habitats
- They can help lessen the damage of tsunamis and hurricanes
- They absorb SO MUCH CARBON DIOXIDE. They will literally pull CO2 from the air, and pack that carbon into dense soil called peat. This soil never gets touched by air, and never rots. Theoretically, that carbon could stay in that form for millennia. <Click that link.
Now back to the point of this post….what’s this gotta do with shrimp?
Shrimp naturally thrive in mangroves. They’re not bad for the mangroves until you pair them with delicious cocktail sauce, prepare them tempura style at your favorite Japanese restaurant, or serve them in seafood gumbo. In order to satisfy the huge, and I mean 3.4 million tonnes/year demand (holy shit), shrimp farmers must cultivate shrimp* by the millions. In order to make the shrimp fat and juicy, farmers feed them antibiotics. These antibiotics cause the shrimp to feed on nutrients faster than the mangroves can produce while also killing the mangroves.
How is that productive? It’s not.
The effects of shrimp farming are so deathly that the mangroves can only support a farm for 2-3 year before it dies out. After that, what happens? The shrimp farmers simply move to a different portion of the mangroves. The cycle continues.
Moral of the story: I will never eat shrimp again. Even if they’re big and juicy and on sale at COSTCO for $12/bag.
*Shrimp is not always cultivated. Shrimp can also be collected via another evil called shrimp trawling, a method where weighted nets run along the ocean bottom to collect shrimp. You can imagine what happens to any sort of ecosystem when a weighted net runs across the top of it…(*coughcoughdamagedcoralreefscough*)