LONDON, UK, December 19, 2003 (ENS):
Sustainable forestry and fisheries have been encouraged
by eco-labeling and certification schemes over the past
decade. Now a British environmental organization and
a celebrity chef are trying to do the same for the prawn,
or shrimp, industry.
Grilled, boiled, peeled, or battered, shrimp are popular
during the holiday season, but the Environmental Justice
Foundation and TV chef Ken Hom are demanding an end
to widespread human rights and environmental abuses
associated with the worldwide multi-billion dollar industry.
EJF guide lists questions that consumers
can ask at the supermarket or restaurant
to encourage sustainable and ethical prawn
Which countries are prawns sourced from,
and are these prawns fished or farmed?
Do the prawns sold
come from well-managed sources that are
not linked to environmental degradation
or social problems?
Does the supplier have codes of conduct
for the management of prawn farms and fisheries,
and can they provide information on who
monitors the implementation of these standards?
If the prawns are fished, how do they ensure
that the accidental capture of other marine
life is reduced or eradicated?
Do they sell organically farmed prawns?
Organic production has fewer environmental
impacts, but social issues are only partially
addressed, the EFJ says.
Do they sell prawns that are fairly traded,
helping coastal communities to benefit from
the trade in this luxury food?
They say consumer awareness of the consequences of
their shrimp, or prawn purchases can make the difference
between environmental degradation and sustainable production,
between murder and thriving communities.
“People have been murdered in 11 countries in
conflict linked to prawn farming," said Hom, who
has recorded a short video message highlighting these
abuses. "The environment has been degraded and
human rights have been abused to bring us this luxury
Prawn farming has been associated with hazardous forms
of child labor, illegal land seizures, large scale destruction
of mangrove forests, pollution of water and agricultural
land, violence and intimidation.
Prawn fisheries are responsible for one-third of the
world’s discarded catch, while producing just
two percent of global seafood, the celebrity chef says.
The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) today published
a Consumer Guide to Prawns, highlighting these abuses
and showing consumers how to avoid promoting them with
“Consumers have a right to know what impacts
their purchasing decisions have," said the EJF's
Dr. Mike Shanahan.
Worldwide, prawn farming is worth US$6.9 billion at
the farm gate and US$50-60 billion at the point of retail,
the EJF's research shows.
The European Union is the largest consumer of prawns,
eating 24 percent of world production, followed by the
United States at 21.9 percent.
Two years of research and field investigations by the
Environmental Justice Foundation have documented land
seizures and the displacement of tens of thousands of
people by the prawn industry seeking land for farming
The foundation found evidence of the pollution of agricultural
land and drinking water supplies with chemicals and
salt, violence and intimidation of local people, as
well as official corruption and profiteering.
Prawns are farmed in about 50 countries, with 99 percent
of production coming from developing countries. The
leading 10 producers in 2000 were Bangladesh, Brazil,
China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines,
Thailand, and Vietnam.
Murders directly linked to the industry have occurred
in 11 countries - all of the top 10 producing countries
except China, plus Guatemala and Honduras, the EJF has
Environmental Justice Foundation Director Steve Trent
said, “Whilst some retailers and importers in
the UK have shown genuine willingness to address negative
impacts of prawn production, others have expressed no
concern whatsoever, even though the human rights and
environmental abuses associated with this industry are
widespread and serious.
"People are becoming poorer and hungrier as a
direct consequence of Western demand for prawns,”
“With sales of US$50-60 billion, prawn farming
is big business," said Trent, "but the true
cost is paid by the poor and vulnerable in developing
world countries where prawns are farmed, while prawn
trawling is depleting fish stocks, damaging marine environments
and wiping out endangered wildlife."
By land or by sea, shrimp production and harvesting
result in environmental problems.
On land, large areas of coastal mangrove forest are
cleared for shrimp farm construction. These mangroves
are important habitats for many species of fish and
shellfish, and their loss leaves coastal communities
with reduced food security and potential for income
On the sea, prawn trawling in the tropics is wasteful
and can have devastating ecological impacts, the Environmental
Justice Foundation says. For every kilogram (2.2 pounds)
of prawns landed, up to 20 kilos of other species are
also caught but thrown overboard, dead or dying.
"150,000 marine turtles are killed by prawn trawlers
every year,” says chef Hom.
But responsible prawn aquaculture can take place with
minimal environmental damage. The Australian Prawn Farmer's
Association says the Australian industry was the first
prawn farming sector in the world to develop an Environmental
Code of Practice.
In Australia, marine plants are protected under state
law. This includes all species of mangrove, seagrass
and seaweed. Authorities only allow removal with appropriate
mitigation. In the process of making that decision,
authorities are required by law to consult with all
interested members of the community - this includes
conservation groups, scientists, recreational and commercial
Caring consumers could make a difference by demanding
that their prawns, or shrimp, the terms are used interchangeably,
come from sustainable operations, but currently there
is no adequate labeling system for consumers to identify
prawns produced in a sustainable manner.
Shrimp consumption in the UK rises during the Christmas
party season, so the EJF has chosen this time to publish
its guide to help consumers make wise choices.
Tren said, “Supermarkets must insist, ensure
and show consumers that none of the prawns they have
for sale are causing environmental degradation or leading
to human rights abuses."
Dr. Shanahan says, “We are asking consumers to
think about the true price of the prawns on their plate,
and to take them off the menu if they cannot be certain
that their production has not entailed ecological impacts
or human rights abuses.”
The EJF consumer guide and Ken Hom's video messare
are available online at: http://www.ejfoundation.org/shrimp
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2003. All Rights