Because I really do love good shrimp. I seldom eat pork or beef, nor do I especially care for chicken. But shrimp? Shrimp that is a little bit sweet and cooked just right so that it has a bit of resistance to the tooth with no actual tough- or chewiness? Ambrosia! And it can be prepared soooo many ways! Barbequed, curried, wrapped in duck bacon…coated with lime juice and served with tequila! (Or coated with tequila and served with lime juice…) Stir-fried, or even, yes Forrest Gump I’m almost done vaguely plagiarizing you, boiled and chilled and served with cocktail sauce and Singapore Slings….
But herein lies the rub, and I ain’t talkin a dry Cajun: For every ton of shrimp pulled from the ocean, four tons of other marine life are yanked up…and killed and discarded. Thrown dead over the side of the boat. This trashed marine life is called “by-catch.” It is the collateral damage of shrimp catching.
By-catch includes smaller marine life that serves as food for other species. Sometimes it includes inedible and therefore commercially useless animals like starfish and sponges. In areas where trawling is still practiced, the by-catch can include seabirds, marine mammals, fish, sea turtles, and small children wearing arm floaties. It is the marine version of clear cutting a forest.
The percentage of trashed marine life per pound of yummy-perfect-protein-source used to be closer to ten pounds and included far more heartbreaking creatures like sea turtles and birds. Environmental regulations have reduced that by more than half. Still, I understand from reading this really, really in- depth article written by a guy with resources and stuff who was able to go on boats with shrimp fisherman guys that witnessing the by-catch and its fate is still an alarming spectacle.
Well, says you (like how I put words in your mouth?) I will side step that spectacle! There is plenty of farmed shrimp, I’ll just eat that.
Well, maybe in your hometown of PuppyandRainbowville shrimp farms are clean, sustainable operations that provide a healthy, sanitary and tasty protein source. But not here in Reality, where I am unlucky enough to live. Here, shrimp farming has laid waste to mangroves, fishing communities, and entire ecosystems. Additionally, farm conditions require the use of pesticides and antibiotics. A shrimp farm is to shrimp what a feedlot or CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) is to cows or pigs. You know how all the hormones and antibiotics they use on the cows and chickens make it into your hamburger or chicken fingers? Well, residues of the chemicals they use in shrimp farms linger in the flesh of the shrimp, too. And since most shrimp are farmed in foreign countries, when we eat farmed shrimp we are often eating toxins banned here in the U.S.
There is also the economic factor. Cheap, farmed shrimp imported from the Far East has driven down domestic prices to the point where U.S shrimp fishers cannot make a living.
Stop eating shrimp.
Yeah, yeah I know.
Eat a little less?
If you must eat shrimp (as I must, at least a couple times. In the summer.) first and foremost, purchase only U.S. or Canadian wild-caught shrimp. There are several varieties that are safe, sustainable and delicious. (But not all of them.) If your seafood provider doesn’t carry them, ask. Ask again, and explain why you are asking and KEEP asking until they get it just to shut you up!
Don’t eat shrimp in a restaurant unless it says on the menu that it’s U.S. or Canadian wild-caught. And it will, it will BRAG about it in big letters, letters big enough to obscure the price tag LOL.
Another alternative is Monkfish. Monkfish is known as “Poor Mans’ Lobster,” because of its texture and that slight, delicate taste of sweet. And though shrimp and lobster are obviously not the same crustacean, and monkfish isn’t a crustacean at ALL, it’s, you know, a fish, it’s pretty similar. It also won’t send any of your shellfish-allergic friends into anaphylactic shock, which is a plus. Unfortunately, your one Kosher Jewish friend can’t enjoy monkfish anymore than he can shrimp, since it does not have discernible scales. But he’s used to being left out.
Anyway, be sure to purchase American-caught monkfish as well. NOAA’a Fishwatch states “In 2008, the monkfish resource was declared rebuilt and it now exceeds target population levels. Fishery regulations for monkfish now focus on maintaining harvests at a sustainable level and effectively reducing the fishery’s impact on other species and their habitat.”
Buying North American shrimp usually means buying sustainable shrimp, which means your children’s children’s children will also be able to buy it. It also helps keep North American fisherman in business. Yes, it does cost a little more, but you know what? It should. And when I was a kid, it did! And what’s more? It’s worth it. And if you don’t think it’s worth it? Don’t buy shrimp at all. Buy some CAFO chicken. I’m sure it will be just as good with cocktail sauce.
Bitch better have my by-catch photo © Poznyakov | Dreamstime.com