A shrimp pond in South Korea.
It's true that shrimp farming has become so devastating to the environment that almost any standards created for the industry will be an improvement. But that doesn't mean they will be sustainable or that environmental groups should support them.World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been working on a "Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue" to create "global standards for certifying farmed shrimp products."
The standards have been in development for nearly five years now, a process that has included multiple stakeholders meeting in Africa, Asia, and South America.
IPS reports that many are concerned the proposed standards are still far too weak, and that if they form the basis for shrimp farm certification, then marine and coastal ecosystems—and the fishermen and communities that depend on them—will all be jeopardized.
More from IPS:
"The plans to certify industrial aquaculture are influenced by the interests of the aquaculture industry and do not reflect the desires of the local communities and indigenous peoples affected," activist Alfredo Quarto of the Mangrove Action Project, a U.S.-based international network, told Tierramérica.
In a letter sent to WWF in late 2010, environmentalists from various regions, including Quarto, put forward a list of concerns over the draft standards, such as the risk of violating international agreements like the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, better known as the Ramsar Convention.
They also expressed their opposition to the use of genetically modified soy and palm oil as shrimp feed, given the fact that large-scale plantations of these crops are associated with impacts like the loss of biodiversity, land grabbing and the loss of other livelihoods for local communities.
The Mangrove Action Project said, "the historical record and scientific evidence both indicate that certification will do much harm to both Local Resource Users and the coastal marine environment."
An open letter to the steering committee of the Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue (which it calls ShAD) itemized a number of specific complaints with the standards, including:
1. There has never been involvement nor representation in WWF-ShAD's so-called dialogue process for the majority of stakeholders or, more aptly, the Local Resource Users who are adversely affected by the shrimp industry in producer nations. ShAD's "stakeholders" are overwhelmingly those invested in the growth of the shrimp-export industry.
2. With each revision to the draft, the standards and their evaluation criteria have been progressively and deliberately diluted by the GSC to ensure that at least 20% of the existing shrimp industry can be certified immediately after the Standards are released...
7. The ShAD standards continue to perpetuate unsustainable and destructive open-throughput systems of aquaculture -- with a legacy of 400,000 hectares (and counting) of abandoned ponds in producer-nations.
"These WWF/ ShAD standards are just one more 'pie-in-the-sky' attempt to justify and expand the profits of an unsustainable and destructive industry, resulting in further loss of mangrove forests and displacement of local communities," Mangrove Action Project's Quarto said in the same letter.
Gudrun Hubendick of the Stockholm Shrimp Action Group in Sweden added, "WWF continues to ignore the risk that their shrimp certification scheme may result in actually increasing demand for shrimp, thus increasing the expansion of the bad practices that certification was supposedly trying to address through these standards."
More on shrimp farming:
Shrimp On Your Plate? Think Twice (Your Liver, Endangered Mangroves, And Poorly Paid Workers Will Thank You)
Vital Mangroves On The Edge Of Extinction Thanks to All-You-Can-Eat Shrimp (Book Review)