Farming Nemo

We here in the United States sure enjoy our all-you-can-eat shrimp! Whether it’s popcorn, cocktailed, or coconut, we love us some shrimpy goodness. And now the Bush administration wants to issue 20-year permits that would allow seafood companies to farm fish and shellfish in federal waters, according to an AP article in The Seattle Times. The administration posits that this would decrease the trade deficit (about 70 percent of our seafood is imported). And needless to say, make sure there’s enough shrimp so that we can continue to eat all we can.

‘This ties in very well with reducing overfishing,’ [Commerce Secretary Carlos] Gutierrez said. ‘This is very much the future, and we need to get to work to be able to have an adequate supply of fish.’

But wait a minute. Although aquaculture already occurs here in the United States, it is under the jurisdiction of the EPA and other environmental organizations that keep an eye on the considerable amount of wastewater generated by fish farms in inland and coastal waterways. In federal waterways, the farms would be beyond the reach of the regulators. Even more distressing, fish farms generally feed their fish other fish, fish that are caught in the ocean, thus making a lie of the claim that aquaculture is a good cure for overfishing.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s excellent Seafood Watch site describes the environmental toll taken on the coastal forests of tropical nations like Thailand that have intensive shrimp farming.

Many mangrove forests have been cut down and replaced with shrimp farms that supply shrimp to Europe, Japan and America. After a few years, waste products build up in the farm ponds and the farmers have to move on. The local people are left with no shrimp farms—and no mangrove forest.

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