Shrimp seems like the perfect holiday cocktail party and buffet table staple-decadent, but low in calories and perfect along side a glass of celebratory champagne.  Shrimp is one of the most consumed seafood products in the world and folks enjoy it without too much thought of how catching it harms our oceans.  When you learn the facts, you may never look at shrimp the same way again…and we hope you make other choices like oysters, mussels and clams, (which as filter feeders, are great for our oceans and for you) the new staples of your holiday indulgences.  Lobsters and crabs, caught in pots, are also ocean friendly and delicious alternatives to shrimp.

Photo courtesy of National Geographic

Photo courtesy of National Geographic

Andrew Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, summed it up very well on Thursday nights lecture series at the New England Aquarium, “They are called shrimp, right? Because they are…shrimps!  The net that we use to catch shrimp have tiny holes and therefore collect unintended species or bycatch. For every pound of shrimp we eat, three pounds of bycatch are caught along with it.”  According to Sharpless’ book  The Perfect Protein,  76% of marine life that shrimp trawlers haul isn’t shrimp. Most distressing is that thousands of the marine life caught in shrimp nets are endangered sea turtles. Shrimp is also farmed and some folks may think that is a good alternative to risking the wild caught shrimp with its bycatch issue, but this also turns out to be a disappointing story. Again, Andrew Sharpless writes, “…(T)he majority of farmed shrimp comes at a heavy cost to the environment, with pristine tropical mangroves destroyed to make way for industrial farms that spread pollution and disease. These farms not only degrade the environment but also the prospects for artisanal fishermen, who watch as habitat crucial to their local fisheries is demolished.”

In The Perfect Protein Sharpless talks about the benefits of eating abundant wild seafood, avoiding the species that he calls the “big fish” and encourages you to eat local. The book includes recipes from famous chefs and most can be prepared in under 20 minutes. The Perfect Protein is the “Perfect” gift of knowledge and insight for family and friends interested in protecting the oceans and making healthy choices for their family and friends.

For those of you that have to eat shrimp and love it like I do, the New England Aquarium recommends US farmed shrimp from Green Prairie Shrimp in Alabama. The owners are committed to the environment and very careful about best practices to ensure that their products and the land used to farm them are sustainable. Some Whole Food stores carry it but be careful of labels, they also sell from farms in Thailand. I emailed Green Prairie Shrimp and received this note from owner David Teichert-Coddington:

“The Whole Foods Market sells our shrimp in that area, although I am unsure
if every store carries them.  You may find them in the frozen seafood
section as a “club pak”, or they might have them thawed in the seafood case.
The club paks will have our name on them, but the thawed shrimp are not ours
unless they are labeled as USA farmed.  The seafood counter folks will tell
you where the shrimp are from.”