How To Find Sustainable Shrimp

As an online cooking school student, you may already be aware that the culinary industry is moving down the path of increased sustainability and local sourcing. Restaurants are looking for food grown locally, or are ensuring the quality of their products by planting a garden. While many chefs think about where their produce and meat come from, not everyone stops to examine shrimp. This tiny creature plays a major role in its environment, and the way humans farm or source shrimp can have a widespread impact on marine life.

Fishing methods
Oceans, rivers and lakes provide food for humans to eat, including shrimp. However, poor fishing practices can harm aquatic environments and reduce the amount of fish in the sea. According to the Marine Stewardship Council, increased human populations around the globe have also caused an increase in fishing. Certain communities need a bountiful supply off of which to make a living. However, some practices harm the ecosystem and deplete fishing sources.

For example, trawling boat nets pull in aquatic life outside of shrimp, called by-catch. Trawling is a particularly harmful practice in which boats use heavy objects to anchor nets to the ocean floor. As the boat sails on, the weights are dragged along, crushing items in its path, such as ancient coral. Trawling can potentially destroy habitats where endangered fish live, eventually killing off populations of the seafood many humans depend upon.

Farm fishing is also a tricky business. Some shrimp farms use antibiotics in their water and only just meet regulation standards. Other farm-raised shrimp exceeds standards and avoids the use of antibiotics. This variety is better for human health and the environment.

Better practices
When you search for shrimp, avoid purchasing from companies that use trawling. Instead, seek out sources that use sustainable practices by reading labels. Both Wild American Shrimp and the Marine Stewardship Council certify fisheries that are well-managed and sustainable. Look for one of these seals when you’re out shopping. If you do not find a label, buy Oregon pink shrimp and Pacific Northwest spot prawn from British Columbia, both of which are recommended by Seafood Watch.

The inclusion of a Best Aquaculture Practices label ensures that your farm-raised shrimp comes from a farm that does not use antibiotics and surpasses regulation standards.

Other tips and tricks
Unless you are 100 percent sure that the shrimp at your grocery store counter is fresh, you should buy frozen. Most shrimp is caught and frozen immediately to retain freshness. Some stores thaw the frozen shrimp and display them at the seafood counter. If this is the case, you’re better off buying frozen and thawing them yourself.

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