How Sustainable Seafood Can Help Mangroves cover

How Sustainable Seafood Can Help Mangroves

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While mangroves do not take up a very large portion of our planet’s surface, they play a key role in protecting coastlines and providing economic value. Many fish and shellfish species that are sold commercially rely on mangroves as juveniles while they grow to adult size, then as adults for foraging.
Aquarium of the Pacific





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How Sustainable Seafood Can Help Mangroves

People have practiced coastal aquaculture, or the farming of fish or shellfish for food, in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years. While many of these types of farms have had little adverse effects on mangroves, there are some methods that are destructive. One of the primary threats to mangrove forests is clearing for human activities, such as agriculture and more recently, the construction of aquaculture ponds.

Because of the known benefits provided by mangroves, many countries have now restricted or banned their conversion into aquaculture ponds. Communities in Southeast Asia are working with government and other organizations to find ways for aquaculture and mangroves to coexist, and some responsible operations are now serving as working examples.

Mangroves growing in the coral rocks of the Guam coastline. Mariana Islands, Guam. 2006 September. Photographer: David Burdick.

In this process economically and environmentally sustainable livelihoods must be made available for people living in these areas, and science-based management of any seafood production must be used within mangrove habitats.

Shrimp and other types of seafood farmed in existing mangrove forests benefit from the shelter and protection from predators provided by the mangroves and the naturally occurring sources of food available in the mangrove habitat.

On top of these benefits, seafood companies can incentivize mangrove conservation by providing farmers a higher income for mangrove-raised seafood. Farmers can supplement their income with alternative economic opportunities, such as tourism and learning to sustainably harvest wood from the mangrove forest to sell as firewood.

One of the shrimp products raised in a mangrove-friendly manner is Selva Shrimp®. The product is responsibly produced in Vietnam using a business model that supports small-scale farmers and local communities and encourages the conservation of the mangrove forests, which the shrimp need to thrive. The Aquarium features this product in food service at special events.

Another way to provide jobs in local communities and protect mangroves is payment for ecosystem services. In other words, funds could be provided for local people to conserve or restore mangroves so the whole community can enjoy the benefits they provide.

In areas where governments are already spending significant funds on seawalls and other coastal protection measures, some of these funds could be diverted for mangrove restoration. Tourism operators could also fund this work, as they benefit from maintaining mangrove forests as scenic destinations. Aquaculture operators could contribute as a means of offsetting any mangrove loss incurred from building their farms.

If payment for ecosystem services is used, development experts emphasize that the local community must be actively involved in the process to ensure it is fair and transparent and that the community, rather than outsiders, benefits. The potential for programs like these is being studied in places like Vietnam and the Solomon Islands.

Mangroves growing in the coral rocks of the Guam coastline. Mariana Islands, Guam. 2006 September. Photographer: David Burdick.

Shrimp Shopping Tips From the Aquarium’s Seafood for the Future Program

1.) Look for well-managed wild-caught and responsibly farmed shrimp from the U.S. In the U.S. regulations are in place to ensure that environmental impacts, such as bycatch and nutrient pollution, are minimized and that fishers and farmers can maintain their livelihoods. Learn more about well managed U.S. shrimp at fishwatch.gov.

2.) Choose certified farmed shrimp. Ask your seafood purveyor about farmed shrimp options certified by Best Aquaculture Practices (bap.gaalliance. org), Aquaculture Stewardship Council (asc-aqua.org), or Naturland (naturland. de/en/). These certifications were found to improve environmental performance beyond the "status quo" in a 2009 study conducted by the University of Victoria Seafood Ecology Group.

3.) Choose certified wild shrimp. Ask your seafood purveyor about shrimp certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (msc.org).