Raising Shrimp: Where Does America’s Favorite Seafood Come From?

Written by on February 7, 2014 in Other News

Becoming a responsible consumer of seafood is a worthwhile goal, but one that can sometimes appear overwhelming. Questions to consider include: What part of the world does the food come from? What are the environmental impacts? Are there any potential health risks?

Poster courtesy of Fish Navy Films.

Poster courtesy of Fish Navy Films.

Shrimp is the most widely consumed seafood in the US, and Raising Shrimp, by Fish Navy Films, sheds light on the industry behind these ubiquitous crustaceans. The documentary introduces viewers to methods used to catch shrimp as well as methods of raising them on farms, and presents the issues, both ecological and economic, that the industry faces. Providing a straightforward and engaging overview, Raising Shrimp not only serves to educate on where our food comes from, but can help consumers make smarter choices.

Where similar films occasionally feel like beautified PowerPoint presentations, with bombardments of figures and data, Raising Shrimp instead connects audiences to the people who make their livings off of shrimp. There are the domestic catchers, who have been forced to struggle harder as years go by in order to stay competitive, and who fear for the sustainability of their work, and there are the shrimp farmers, mainly from South America and Southeast Asia, who may be aware of the environmental consequences they play a part in, but can’t afford to take measures that would offset them.

No matter where shrimp come from, the business is a messy one. Catchers often resort to bottom-trawling, an imprecise, highly destructive fishing method, in order to catch enough to justify an outing. On the other hand, farm-raised shrimp, which account for the great majority consumed in the US and Europe, require lots of cleared acreage, and take feed that leaves the ocean-bound water they live in polluted. Owing to cheap feeding techniques, as well as ineffective regulations on inspections, these shrimp also can contain harmful substances.

Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the United States.

Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the United States. Photo credit: vanhookc via photopin cc.

Answers to such concerns are shown to be within reach of the industry, however, depending on how willing it is, and how willing consumers are, to apply the right kind of pressures. As Raising Shrimp reveals the tricky particulars of the shrimp farming business, it also reveals where there are opportunities for it to improve. Recycling the shrimp’s own waste, for example, leads to better efficiency. Recirculating farms clean dirty water and put it back into use, while aerating machines can increase the livability of water to allow more shrimp in a smaller area. Such innovation has the potential to benefit the business side of raising shrimp as well as minimize its effects on the environment.

Improvements to familiar methods have surpassed the rate at which new techniques are adopted. At some point, conscientious individuals must be willing to push the envelope, even when this is associated with risk or reduced profit margins. Raising Shrimp advances a forward minded approach to meeting the world’s large demand for shrimp, which begins with an enlightened consumer, and ends with clean, self-sufficient domestic production. This is a film that proposes solutions to the shortcomings it exposes, and provides the necessary insight and advice to help us make those solutions a reality.

Editor’s note — If you’re in the area, you can see Raising Shrimp on March 29 at the DC Environmental Film Festival, or on April 6 at the San Francisco Food and Farm Film Festival! And, after you learn where your shrimp comes from, be sure to check out Fish Navy Film’s first documentary, Fish Meat.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

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