Stop Eating Imported Shrimp


Written by Camden Smithtro, Editor

Shrimp. Available for $8.99 at Trader Joe’s, to buy in any local restaurant on Cannery Row, or to snack on at an office retirement party. Plentiful, tasty, healthy, and relatively cheap too. However, what many of us may not realize is the inherently harmful impact that imported appetizer has on the environment and, consequently, ourselves. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch has categorized all imported shrimp (other than that farmed in Honduras or Ecuador) as to be avoided, saying that consumers should “take a pass on these for now, they’re overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment”. But why? To answer that, we need to take a trip to the place imported shrimp are farmed: the mangrove forests.


Mangrove forests, or swamps, are warm coastlines of tropical and subtropical areas, and home to a wide variety of aquatic flora and fauna. Found mainly in Southeast Asia, but also occurring in South America and the lower reaches of North America, mangroves play a critical role in coastline ecosystems, impacting thousands of species that live in the shelter the trees provide. Essentially, mangrove trees form a natural barrier on the coastline, shielding the inner coast from winds, floods, large predators and natural disasters. This allows entire ecosystems to flourish in areas that, without mangrove trees, would be barren. Many endangered species such as manatees, sea turtles, Royal Bengal tigers and monitor lizards call the mangrove forests their home. Mangroves swamps are an essential part of the world ecosystem.


Despite this, numerous national governments who have control over the mangrove swamps had, “until recently… been classified by many governments and industries alike as “wastelands,” or useless swamps” (Mangrove Action Project). This made it much easier to destroy the mangroves to make room for industries such as fisheries, logging, and shrimp farms. As much as 50% of mangrove destruction is for shrimp farming.


But how does that percentage translate to acres of land? Unfortunately that figure is no better. 150,000 hectacres of land are cleared per year for the shrimping industry. 3 million acres have been cleared total to make room for shrimp. 450,000 acres have been abandoned by fisheries due to pollution, contamination, and depletion of resources there. That land cannot be reclaimed. (Mangrove Action Project). This is not an unavoidable problem. This is a blatant misuse and abuse of world natural resources.


By now, you’re probably wondering – what does this have to do with me? I can’t control where my shrimp comes from, if it’s hurting the environment that’s out of my hands. While individual consumers such as ourselves can do little to actual change the laws and practices of multimillion dollar industries in Southeast Asia, we can return to our colonial American roots with one of the best methods of protest: boycott.


As laid out by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, anything that is imported from other countries should be avoided at possible. Their preferred shrimp choice is anything farmed in the United States. However, finding this shrimp is easier said than done. A survey of local supermarkets, including Grove Market, Trader Joe’s, and Lucky, shows that many of the shrimp brands offered are imported, and from countries such as Thailand or Japan where shrimp is practically ensured to be grown in mangrove forests. However, there are some sustainable options, highlighted in green in the table below, and which include Grove Market’s cocktail shrimp and Pacific Sustainable Shrimp from Lucky. In red are brands that do import their shrimp, and do so from areas that hurt mangroves.    


Trader Joe’s


Brand Name: Where is the Shrimp From? Cost:
Wild Uncooked Argentinian Shrimp Argentina 62.4 cents per oz
Cooked Shrimp Medium Indonesia 49.9 cents per oz
Cooked Shrimp Large Indonesia 49.9 cents per oz
Colossal Cooked Shrimp Thailand 49.9 cents per oz
Tempura Shrimp Farm Raised in Thailand 49.9 cents per oz


Grove Market


Brand Name: Where is the Shrimp From? Cost:
Raw Cocktail Shrimp Locally Farm Raised in North California 39.9 cents per oz
Smoked Cocktail Shrimp Locally Farm Raised in North California 35 dollars



Brand Name: Where is the Shrimp From? Cost per Ounce:
Pacific Sustainable Seafood: Salad Shrimp United States of America, Canada 74.9 cents per oz
Master Catch: Raw Shrimp, Ready to Cook Indonesia 68.7 cents per oz
Master Catch: Cooked Shrimp, Peeled, Deveined Indonesia 68.7 cents per oz
Master Catch: Raw Shrimp, Shell-On, Easy-Peel Taiwan 81.2 cents per oz
Chicken of the Sea: Cocktail Shrimp Thailand 99.9 cents per oz


Brand Name: Where is the Shrimp From? Cost:
Waterfront Bistro: Raw Shrimp Argentina 26.98 (13-15 count)
Pacific Fusion: Raw Shrimp Culver City, CA 25.98
Waterfront Bistro: Cooked Shrimp Argentina 25.98
Lucerne: Shell on Thailand 39.98


Overall, the general rule of thumb is imported = bad, local = good. However, this comes with a caveat. Some shrimp companies use a BPA stamp on their packages to declare their shrimp as a sustainable option. A representative from the Seafood Watch, when asked about how significant this denotation really was, said “Seafood Watch recognizes BAP certified shrimp (2, 3, 4-star) as equivalent to a Yellow recommendation. Seafood Watch does not recognize BAP 1-star certified shrimp as equivalent to a Yellow recommendation, as 1-star only signifies certification of a processing plant, not a farm”, going on to clarify that a yellow recommendation was a good alternative, but not the best option. The best option remains shrimp farmed in America.


If this article has you at all convinced, or at least a little more curious about where your shrimp comes from, sign this petition ( pledging to reduce your consumption of imported shrimp. And even if you aren’t convinced, just remember that your actions have a big impact, even if those actions, like eating an imported shrimp, may seem small.