(Thailand, Farmed in Fully Recirculating Systems)
Most imported farmed shrimp should be avoided due to habitat damage, the risk of pollution, disease and the introduction of non-native species to the surrounding environment. However, some farms in Thailand use fully recirculating ponds that reduce these risks. Shrimp from these farms is a "Good Alternative."
Pacific White Shrimp, West Coast White Shrimp, Ebi
For the most sustainable product, look for shrimp raised in fully recirculating tanks or ponds. The terms "shrimp" and "prawn" may be used interchangeably. Shrimp is known as ebi when prepared for sushi.
Shrimp is the most popular and valuable seafood in the U.S. Most shrimp consumed in the U.S. is imported and Thailand is the single largest exporting country. All shrimp imported into the U.S. from Thailand is farmed.
In Thailand, large areas of coastal mangrove forests have been cleared to build shrimp farms. Mangroves are an important habitat for a diverse community of fish, invertebrates, plants and birds. The loss of this habitat has devastating impacts on local communities and the artisanal fisheries and foraged foods that these people rely on.
Mangrove destruction in Thailand is now illegal and, thanks to replanting efforts, these forests are now increasing. However, pollution released from shrimp farms remains a concern for these sensitive habitats, especially in areas with large numbers of shrimp farms .
Escapes are also a consideration as Thailand, like many other shrimp producing countries, now farms a non-native white shrimp instead of the native tiger shrimp. The potential impact of escaped white shrimp is still being studied.
About 75 percent of shrimp farms in Thailand are not fully recirculating. They release water and waste products from the ponds into the environment as the shrimp is being raised or, in the best case, just once when the shrimp is harvested. Concerns about pollution, disease and the escape of non-native shrimp result in an "Avoid" recommendation.
The remaining 25 percent are fully recirculating farms, which treat and reuse water for multiple crops of shrimp without releasing it to the environment. These practices not only reduce pollution, but also decrease escapes of non-native shrimp and the spread of disease. For these reasons, Thai shrimp farmed in recirculating systems are a "Good Alternative".
Consumers should "Avoid" farmed shrimp from Thailand unless they can be certain that the shrimp are from farms using fully recirculating systems. Thai shrimp from fully recirculating farms is a "Good Alternative."