A TALE OF TWO SHRIMP
At one extreme are shrimp produced on farms that have destroyed mangroves and polluted aquatic habitats and where antibiotics and hazardous chemicals are widely used. They may even be fed on fishmeal caught by boats that employ slave labour.
Then there are producers like Granjas Marinas (GGM) from Honduras. On their 10,000-hectare site, shrimp are raised in naturally healthy conditions, free from antibiotics. New mangrove forests are being established alongside the shrimp ponds and channels helping protect the ponds from wind and storms. Nutrients are recycled, and the shrimp thrive on naturally occurring microorganisms in the water; when fishmeal is used for feed, it comes from certified sustainable sources.
Producing 14,000 metric tonnes of shrimp per year, the company provides permanent employment for 400 people and seasonal jobs for another 3,500 – over 1,400 of them single mothers – in one of the most impoverished regions of Latin America. It’s also led the local shrimp grower’s association in setting up a foundation to invest in health and education projects in neighbouring communities.
But how do you know which shrimp is which? Until recently, there was little way for consumers to tell. Over the last couple of years, though, a number of leading shrimp farms have been certified against the rigorous standard of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). Following the ASC certification of shrimp farmers representing 90 per cent of production in Belize, Granjas Marinas became the first company in Honduras to be certified in April 2016; Sociedad Nacional Galapagos (SONGA), a large Ecuadorian producer, has now followed suit with the recent ASC certification of its four cluster farms all situated in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
GGM has been striving to farm shrimp responsibly for nearly 40 years. “Our practices are all about sustainability, because we rely on a healthy environment to produce healthy shrimp,” says Victor. “If our practices are sustainable, then so is our business, and so are the livelihoods of the people we employ.”
With the support of WWF and IDH (The Sustainable Trade Initiative), the company prepared for ASC certification. Nevertheless, it took three years of work and significant investment to make sure operations were up to standard. “It’s always useful to have an objective run through, and a lot of good things came out of it,” says Victor. “Along with the small improvements – like recycling bins and better bathroom facilities for workers – it’s helped us tighten up procedures and improve our documentation and traceability. We can now trace any product back to the lab where the eggs were hatched in a matter of hours. Every stage of the process and all the inputs are there on file.”
Gottfried Lichdi, Costa’s purchasing director, confirms this. “We chose GGM as a supplier back in 2003, because we were convinced they had the best social and environmental standards in the business – and as a result the best shrimp. We know their operations are sustainable, and as a consequence their quality is excellent – but our customers want the assurance that ASC certification provides.”
Retailers in Germany are increasingly demanding ASC-certified seafood, Gottried says. He believes Costa can tap into a growing market in other countries, as consumers increasingly look out for traceable, sustainable farmed seafood products. Latin American producers are well placed to meet this demand: GGM already supplies Marks & Spencer in the UK, while Sainsbury’s now uses certified Belize shrimp in its premium brand range.
Belize is an important source of farmed shrimp for us, so we're delighted to see the growth of ASC certification in region.
- Dependency on fish oil and fishmeal, a key feed ingredient, representing a third of the global fish harvest.
- Risk of disease and parasite outbreaks between farmed and wild fish, and among farms.
- Pollution or depletion of local waterways, including salinization in the case of shrimp farming.
- Excessive use of chemicals such as antibiotics, fertilizers and pesticides can have unintended consequences for marine organisms and human health.
- Habitat conversion – loss of coastal mangroves, particularly in tropical regions.
- Farmed species escape can impact genetic diversity of wild species.
- ASC certification reduces adverse impacts on the environment by preserving wetlands and mangroves; addressing the transfer of viruses and reducing disease; bringing cleaner water and ensuring the sustainable use of water; responsible use of feed; and addressing biodiversity issues.
- ASC certification encourages improvements to coastal zones and small pelagic fisheries management.
- Well-managed aquaculture can be part of the solution to feeding the planet.
- Future increase in seafood production will come from the growing aquaculture industry as many marine fish stocks are overfished.
- Improved social conditions on shrimp farms can lead to equitable solutions for local communities.
- The growth of aquaculture is linked to innovation in production methods and technology, a vibrant environment in which to enact change around reducing impacts