According to new estimates, farmed shrimp from Asia may have one of the highest carbon footprints of any food.
More than half of all shrimp farms are located in Asia, primarily in areas that used to be mangrove forests. Mangroves are trees that grow in salt water, and they are important for marine ecosystems because they provide nutrients and shelter for many fish, turtle, and wading bird species. Mangrove forests are also important because they serve as a carbon sink, removing and storing more than 1,000 pounds of CO2) per acre each year.
But around the world, mangrove forests are being cut down to build shrimp farms. These farms are also often short-lived. The intensive farming methods pollute the environment, and disease spreads easily among the shrimp, which means that shrimp farmers must frequently clear new areas to stay in business.
Because of the tremendous loss of mangroves (the Environmental Justice Foundation estimates that as much as 38% of mangrove deforestation is linked to shrimp farms), a single pound of shrimp produces one ton of CO2 – just from the loss of mangroves and not including emissions from transportation and production.
Comparatively, a single pound of beef produces about 15 pounds of C02 overall, and only 4% of that is from land use.
Almost 85% of the world’s fisheries are overfished or fished to capacity, but making smart choices about which seafood to eat can help protect the world’s oceans. Whenever possible, buy shrimp from the United States or Canada or from farms that have recirculating systems, which reduce pollution and disease. And that’s just one shrimpy way to reduce your own carbon footprint.