Look for Certification Labels
A good place to start is to search the package for certification labels. Look for the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) logo on wild shrimp, or the ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) or GAA (Global Aquaculture Alliance) Best Aquaculture Practices certi cation on packages of farmed shrimp. these organizations have established standards on how shrimp are caught or farmed. Fishermen and shrimp farmers must meet tough rules on impacts that range from bycatch and fishing gear used when harvesting wild shrimp to pollution, antibiotic use, and habitat destruction for farmed shrimp. If your supermarket doesn’t carry any certified shrimp, ask them to start.
Shop at Grocery Stores with Sustainability Commitments
Walmart and Costco have pledged to review their supply chains to ensure slave labor was not used in their products. Other supermarket chains, including Safeway, Kroger, and Target, all have made public seafood sustainability pledges in recent years, but some (like Whole Foods) are much farther along than others (like Publix).
Whole Foods was also named in the Associated Press story as one of the supermarket chains receiving slave-peeled shrimp, but the company disputes the findings, saying they “do not purchase any shrimp from peeling shed facilities” and that they inspect processing facilities, farms, docks, and distribution centers firsthand. Furthermore, Whole Foods’ shrimp standards (which outline the rules they follow to source shrimp for their stores) do not allow shrimp farmers to use antibiotics or pesticides. There are also rules governing impacts on the surrounding environment, guidelines on water quality, and details on what is and isn’t allowed in shrimp feed.
Louisiana shrimper Lance Nacio and his boat, the Anna Marie, which he’s outfitted with fishing gear modified to reduce bycatch.
America has strict labor laws and some of the best environmental policies on the planet when it comes to the harvesting of our own seafood. We have a variety of delicious wild regional choices, including flavor-packed shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico and southern Atlantic, delicate pink shrimp from Oregon, Florida rock shrimp, and tasty West Coast spot prawns, to name a few.
Concerns over slavery, antibiotic use, or pollution are not associated with U.S. wild-caught shrimp. However, it’s not automatically a problem-free choice. The majority of U.S. shrimp is caught using trawls—nets that are dragged along the seafloor. That means shrimpers catch a lot more than just shrimp. Sometimes they snare turtles, sharks, or other fish known as bycatch. In the 1990s, the amount was an astonishing (and unsustainable) 4 pounds of bycatch for every 1 pound of shrimp harvested. Today, that number is between 2 and 2.5 pounds of bycatch for each pound of shrimp, but scientists and fishermen are finding some promising techniques that could whittle that number down even more.
Conscientious shrimpers like Louisiana-based Lance Nacio of Anna Marie Shrimp take sustainability challenges seriously and have modified fishing gear and partner closely with environmental groups to minimize bycatch. “We try to be as sustainably minded when we fish as possible. We want to lessen our impact when we’re out fishing. When we pull up the net and there’s just shrimp in it, that’s the best case for us. My goal is to minimize it to less than 10 percent and often 5 percent. You can’t get it all out, but we’re trying,” he tells me.
And that’s the good news for folks who love shrimp and want to do right. Yes, you can keep enjoying shrimp—and the recipes linked below are good ways to do that. You just need to take some extra care when buying it. The price might be higher for the good ones, but the peace of mind that comes with them is priceless.