Photo by mccun934/Flickr CC
I stopped eating farmed shrimp--which is to say nearly 90 percent of the shrimp sold in this country--several years ago for three reasons:
1) They taste like ammonia or mud.
2) Too often, they are contaminated with drugs and chemicals banned by the United States government.
And (3) Shrimp aquaculture is one of the most environmentally harmful ways humans have devised to raise food, contributing to the destruction of mangroves, pollution of coastal waters, and decimation of wild species.
I may soon have to reassess my blanket condemnation of farmed shrimp. On January 14, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, which publishes a series of useful pocket guides to sustainable seafood, will issue updated guidelines. "New research has become available on farmed shrimp," Alison Barratt, a spokeswoman for the aquarium, told me. "Some aspects have improved."
Although Barratt refused to give specifics in advance of the release, environmentalists agree that things appear to have gotten better in a couple of key management practices, particularly in Asian countries, the source for most of the farmed shrimp we eat. Aquaculture operations in that area once relied on native tiger shrimp and had to populate their ponds with juvenile "seed stock" caught from depleted wild populations. Over the last several years, they have switched to Pacific white shrimp, an American species, which is bred in captivity.