Shrimp is one of the highest consumed seafood in America, exceeding only that of tuna. According to Consumer Reports, the US consumes almost 18 million servings of shrimp each day. And there’s good reason for this – shrimp is one of the most culinary versatile seafood available.
“You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it”. – Bubba, Forrest Gump
The Risks of Importing Shrimp
As tasty as shrimp is, it’s important to know from where shrimp is sourced. Because of its high demand, over 90 percent of shrimp sold in the U.S. is imported from China, Thailand and many other Asian nations where it is processed and distributed relatively cheap. But cheap doesn’t mean better. The low cost of imported shrimp often comes at a high cost to human health and the environmental.
First, Asian imported shrimp are raised in shrimp farms that are known to take shortcuts. Typically, they are raised under poor conditions and exposed to pollution, chemicals and strong antibiotics that are banned in the U.S. Farm-raised shrimp from Asia has also been found to contain chemicals used to clean the tanks in which shrimp are raised.
Another alarming fact is that shrimp imported from Asia is sometimes caught and processed by slave or child labor. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are documented examples of human trafficking in the shrimp supply chain, including individuals held at sea to catch fish used in shrimp meal and women and children forced to peel shrimp by hand.
So, what are the alternatives? The good news is that other, healthier, sustainable choices are available. My suggestion? Buy U.S. farm raised or wild caught shrimp. The U.S. has strict regulations on farming and trawling, so fortunately it is possible to buy shrimp that have been raised or caught with sound practices.
Look for farmed shrimp labeled and recognized by the Best Aquiculture Practices, by Wild American Shrimp, or the Marine Stewardship Council, all which certify that farms are well-managed and sustainable. Only Farms that are the best get this type of certification.
If you can’t find certification for farm raised U.S. shrimp, then buy wild-caught shrimp from North America. Although wild-caught shrimp can be exposed to pollution, a Consumer Reports study found it is far less likely to have bacteria and chemical residue than imported farm raised and is caught with strict U.S. regulations on fishing practices.
Unlike imported shrimp, wild U.S. caught shrimp are not raised with chemicals, are packaged fresher, and are overall a healthier choice. And environmental regulations on the U.S. shrimp industry are high. Over the last several years, shrimpers have dramatically reduced their impact on the environment. Bycatch ratios in the U.S. are seventy to ninety percent below worldwide shrimp fisheries – U.S. shrimp industries have incorporated turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, that allow over 97% of turtles to swim free of shrimp nets and bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) specifically designed to allow finfish to escape.
If your choice is to go for wild shrimp, and you live in the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay area, look no farther than our own backyard where the history of the U.S. wild shrimp industry begins, and where you can find fresh locally-caught shrimp and other seafood products fresh from Florida, like at the Versaggi Shrimp Company. A third-generation family owned business for over 110 years, Versaggi owns and operates one of the largest shrimp industries in the United States. And the best news is that this establishment is open to the public, so you can buy shrimp, Florida spiny lobster and sea scallops right from the source. They are #fishmongerapproved!