International effort calls for a Shrimp Break, Putting the Brakes on Industrial Shrimp
The shrimp aquaculture industry has boomed in the past fifteen years, causing widespread destruction of mangrove forests and fragile coastal ecosystems, devastation of local fisheries, pollution, social dislocation, misery, violence and human rights abuses in coastal communities. Seeing their traditional way of life threatened, many have opposed the shrimp industry, only to be intimidated and even murdered for their resistance.
UK environmental and human rights groups have announced their support for an international campaign to put a break on industrial shrimp production and consumption. The campaign is launched on 21 November by activists from around the world gathered in Vancouver, Canada. The activists are gathered in support of environmental and community groups in developing countries fighting the spread of destructive industrial shrimp farming. They are in Vancouver to discuss the impacts of trade liberalization, APEC, and aquaculture and fisheries at the People's Summit on APEC, and to announce the publication of a report on coastal communities and the shrimp industry in Asia, entitled "In Defence of Land and Livelihood", co-produced by the Consumers' Association of Penang, CUSO, Inter Pares, and the Sierra Club of Canada.
They announced the launch of the "Shrimp Break", a movement calling on individuals and organizations to temporarily stop buying and serving farmed shrimp. Increasingly, consumers are encouraged through advertisment to eat shrimp, which have now reached a low price. However, when the environmental and social costs of producing shrimp for western markets are considered, cheap shrimp is no bargain. The two main methods of harvesting shrimp are commercial trawling, and development of shrimp aquaculture or shrimp "farming". The shrimp aquaculture industry has boomed in the past fifteen years, causing widespread destruction of mangrove forests and fragile coastal ecosystems, devastation of local fisheries, pollution, social dislocation, misery, violence and human rights abuses in coastal communities. Seeing their traditional way of life threatened, many have opposed the shrimp industry, only to be intimidated and even murdered for their resistance.
Soaring consumer demand for shrimp in Canada, U.S., Japan and Europe is ultimately responsible for the growth of the shrimp farming industry and the destruction it leaves in its wake.
On World Food Day (October 16), a new umbrella group called the Industrial Shrimp Action Network (ISA Net) was formed in Santa Barbara, California, to address the problems caused by the shrimp aquaculture industry. One of its first activities was to initiate the Shrimp Break, and to ask other groups to do the same.
The activists are calling on individuals and organizations in consumer nations to refrain from purchasing or serving farmed shrimp until certain criteria laid down by organisations representing affected communities are met. Method of production (farm-raised or wild-caught) and country of origin must be clearly indicated. Governments and industry must ensure that the basic rights of local communities to manage their own resources are protected, that existing national laws and regulations are fully enforced where shrimp farming is underway, and that the social and environmental costs associated with industrial shrimp farming are eliminated or greatly reduced. Governments and industry must also ensure that effective sustainability criteria for the industry are developed and a system of independent and unbiased monitoring is set in place which can assure that environmentally sound and socially equitable production practices are established and firmly maintained.
The UK organisations that have so far signed in support of the campaign include the World Rainforest Movement UK Office, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, The Corner House, Christian Aid, Forest Monitor, FERN, Bretton Woods Project and Forest Peoples Programme.
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