Shrimp is farmed in over 50 countries and 99% of it comes from developing nations. Since the advancement of commercial shrimp farming in the 1970s, the lives and livelihoods of rural communities and local farmers have been under threat. The rapid and usually unregulated expansion of shrimp farming has led to human rights infringements with land grabbing, forceful relocations, torture, intimidation and violence widely reported; in at least 11 countries, people have been murdered as a result of such conflicts.
For nearly a decade EJF has been documenting and speaking out against the appalling treatment of millions involved in the shrimp industry, or the communities affected by it around the world.
More traditional subsistence economies in the coastal areas targeted by shrimp farm developers have been undermined as public lands and waterways are privatised, encircled with fences and armed guards put in place to prevent access by fishers. Local subsistence fisheries are impacted by the loss of natural habitats and with it the breeding and nursery grounds for wild fish stocks.
The destruction of mangrove forests that provide food, fuel and shelter to remote and vulnerable communities has led to further problems for coastal people, and protests have ensued. Hundreds of thousands of coastal people have been displaced, in some cases following land seizures involving use of force. Small shrimp farmers have had their shrimp ponds seized by powerful "musclemen".
In countries such as Bangladesh, farmlands have been affected by the salinisation of the soils that has undermined the growth of traditional crops; fresh water supplies have also become salty making livestock production, and the daily search for drinking water more difficult.
Community and national organisations in Asia and Latin America have worked with communities to oppose unregulated expansion of shrimp farms and protests have heralded success.
However, with shrimp consumption continuing to grow in importing markets, solutions that promote sustainable alternatives to industrial shrimp farms and protect coastal livelihoods need to be found.
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Environmental Justice Foundation Charitable Trust (EJF) is a registered charity in England and Wales (no. 1088128)
Environmental Justice Foundation Limited is a not-for-profit trading company limited by guarantee registered in England (no. 0385 3159)