Thursday, November 6, 2014

Response to ACS certification of Ecuadoran Shrimp Farm

Recent news from the Aqualculture Stewardship Council (read story here) has hailed the "first ASC certified shrimp farm in the world" as a momentous turn in the fight against unsustainable shrimp farming practices. But Mangrove Action Project's Executive Director, Alfredo Quarto, looks to his 20 years experiencing studying this practice to come to his own conclusion. The news may not be as delicious as the ASC might want us to believe.


The ASC via its certification of farmed shrimp may ostensibly be attempting to meet "global demand," but more accurately are furthering that unsustainable demand itself by encouraging consumer nations to continue to import farmed shrimp, the majority of which is not sustainable, and in fact is both socially disruptive and environmentally destructive. One farm in a thousand that meets ASC certification does not alter the fact that industrial shrimp farming is creating food insecurity in the global South, while continuing to offer a luxury product to the wealthier nations. 90% export of shrimp product means that only 10% of local food needs met! This is not an encouraging fact, and thus WWF's creation of the ASC is not a positive sign of things to come!

Though WWF and its creation the ASC claim their certified shrimp will save the day, what of those new farms that do not care about the "standards" and take advantage of a still burgeoning export demand to expand their ventures into mangroves? Why do they think certified shrimp will somehow work to reduce demand for uncertified shrimp? It will only increase demand for all shrimp. Many people who otherwise would not eat shrimp due to conscious choice will be tempted to purchase the certified brands, thus entering the demand chain and consume with pride. However, most people will not even notice. WWF/ASC is betting that their more expensive and better managed product will attract lots of present shrimp consumers, but in reality, most current consumers of shrimp just do not think or care about mangroves pr mangrove dependent communities, as long as the price is right at the store!  Thus, ASC certified shrimp simply means more consumers dining at the world table, and this niche that ASC defines will be add-ons mainly, new initiates who are mistaken in believing that they can now dine without a guilty conscience.

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