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
The 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
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
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
“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
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 their purchases.
“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
The European Union is the largest consumer of prawns, eating 24
percent of world production, followed by the United States at 21.9
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 operations.
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
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 documented.
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,” said Trent.
“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
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
"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 fishing interests.
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
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 Reserved.