Course:CONS200/2019/What are the impacts of shrimp farming on the mangroves in South East Asia?

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Introduction

Mangroves are typically found in the Asia-Pacific area and provide a number of vital regulating, supporting and provisioning ecosystem services to the local as well as global communities. Their complex root systems filter salt which allows them to be tolerant of harsh coastal conditions such as salt-water immersion and wave action. Because of the mangroves ability to dissipate wave energy the mangroves provide protection to coastal areas from forces like erosion, storm surge and tsunamis. The roots also create a slow water flow and act as sinks for a variety of heavy metals. Mangroves also have a natural adaptability to rising CO2 levels, and act as an important carbon sink for the world[1].

Mangrove Root Detail

However, it appears that 35% of the worlds mangroves have been destroyed. When the mangroves are removed, ultimately coastal communities lose protection from erosion, tsunamis and storms. Livelihoods from fish who in turn depend on the mangroves are also destroyed[2]. In addition there are negative global effects. It is estimated that approximately 11 million tons of carbon have been released from disturbed mangrove soil[3].

Although there are many causes for mangrove forest loss, the predominant driver has been intensive shrimp farming. Shrimp farming alone is the cause of approximately a quarter of the mangrove destruction. The majority of the worlds shrimp farming is located in Southeast Asia, where the loss rate was calculated to be between 3.58% and 8.08% between 2000 and 2012. Apart from already introduced effects from mangrove loss, the major issues of shrimp farming on mangroves include changes in hydrology, salinization, introduction of non-native species and diseases, pollution from effluents, chemicals and medicines, use of wild fish for feed, capture of wild shrimp seed and loss of livelihoods and social conflicts. To better understand the substantial greenhouse-gas emissions resulting from the land change from mangrove to shrimp farming researchers have used a life-cycle assessment and scaled the emissions: For every 551 grams of aquaculture shrimp, a ton of carbon is released into the atmosphere[4].

The use of mangrove areas for aquaculture shrimp farming in Southeast Asia presumably dates back to the sixteenth century [5]. However, development was not widespread and practices in shrimp farming aquaculture were conducted without considerable consequences for the environment[6]. However, a rising demand for shrimp in combination with new technology created and intensification of the industry starting in the 60's[7].

Categories of Actors[edit | wikitext]

Formal Institutions and Government

South East Asia governments, international organizations, and aid agencies argue that shrimp farming is an important source of rural employment [8]. Through developing an intensive shrimp farming industry, the goal has been to accelerate national economic growth through foreign exchange, to in turn alleviate poverty[9]. This style of ecosystem exploitation reduces the complexity of the natural system to one that is simple and easy to manipulate, allowing those who benefit to get quick, maximum returns on their investment [8] The main beneficiaries from the industry are big companies. While some SE Asia Governments say their goal is to use the industry to create growth in local areas, in fact most of the jobs go to those within large corporations. The majority of the jobs created through shrimp farming side industries, like hatchery operators, manufacturers, feed suppliers, consultants, processors, distributors, transporters, and marketers, are positions in companies that are the main producers of shrimp all across South East Asia [10] Countries like Thailand have departments within their government that are responsible for the management of mangroves and shrimp farming regulations. The Royal Forestry Department in Thailand is responsible for the loss of 50% of the country's mangroves from the years 1961 and 1993 due to intensive shrimp farming [8].

Local Communities

Farm owners are the main local beneficiaries from the shrimp mono-culture industry, often owning huge areas of land and making up a large portion of the communities [8]. However, families that do not necessarily have legal rights to their land can be removed from an area when shrimp farms come in, or they may be forced to leave due to pollution and degradation of the land [8]. While shrimp farming may initially increase GDP, over time the returns are not enough for farmers to live on and the land conversion causes environmental impacts and contributes to local inequality [11].

Studies from different regions in Southeast Asia have shown that coastal aquaculture such as shrimp farming has resulted in unfair transfers of resources and benefits[12]. The industry has increased poverty in the local areas, but has been effective at creating foreign exchange[13]. Less people are employed because of the more automatized shrimp farming, compared to rice farming. In summary the negatively affected are the local population[14].

Construction of a freshwater shrimp farm in Pekalongan, Indonesia

Consumers Worldwide

Shrimp are a high value luxury product produced in the global south and consumed by developed countries, mainly the US, Japan, and Europe[15]. Shrimp can be found in restaurants almost everywhere, in pastas, tacos, salads, and sandwiches. Compared to other types of seafood offered in grocery stores in North America, shrimp is fairly cheap, so it is a common purchase. Most consumers are not aware of the environmental impacts associated with this seafood they are purchasing, and what that seafood may contain in microscopic amounts. Animals that live in sediment like shrimp can sometimes be exposed to toxins and pollution, since the water they are in is slow moving and often close to populations of people [16]. Pollution can stem from sources like river or ocean water contaminated with wastes from coal and oil plants, exhaust from motorvehicles, leached chemicals, or excrement from other animals [16]. Shrimp with repeated or sustained exposure to these pollutants can then risk consumers health when they are ingested [16].

Evidence of the Problem[edit | wikitext]

Decreased Water Quality

Each of the different types of shrimp farming, including traditional forms and intensive forms, use their own unique strategy in order to obtain the shrimp, resulting in unique impacts on the environment, depending on the method [17]. All the bodies of water require a steady source of freshwater for shrimp farming. This is obtained through manipulating inland water systems as well as from extracting water from underground [18]. Back when shrimp farming had started to grow in the early 1970’s, most methods would utilize wild shrimp larvae to fill the ponds and thus they did not need to use pesticides in order to prevent diseases from overtaking the pond. As time went on, the natural populations began to decline, and shrimp farmers began to use imported shrimp, which often are the source of different kinds of diseases [19]. Due to this, shrimp farmers began using more and more pesticides and antibiotics in order to prevent diseases. This is harmful to the environment because of the interconnected water sources which are attached to the ponds used for shrimp farming. Every farming method results in the eventual disposal of wastewater into the surrounding bodies of water, which leads to the pollution of environmental systems and results in devastating consequences. Some of these include the spread of disease as well as high levels of toxic waste in the water [20]. Overall, the shrimp farms use the freshwater in order to produce the shrimp and then dispose all of the negative waste used in production which end up contaminating a vast amount of surrounding fresh water.

Toxic sludge at bottom of drained shrimp pond in Indonesia

Impacts to Coastal Communities

The conversion of mangrove forests to ponds for the purpose of shrimp farming has negative impacts on coastal communities, in particular on poorer communities [21]. Disputes between big shrimp farming industries and these communities result in deteriorated environments, dangerous working conditions as well as negative economic effects [22]. Deteriorated environments, including the loss of forest resources and higher levels of pond pollution, cause food instability, scarce fresh water, and also crops which are not sufficient, which further contributes to economic losses [23]. Shrimp farming also causes economic losses for these local communities because of not only the loss of resources and agriculture but also because the water pollution causes the production to be at much lower levels, often causing local farmers to go bankrupt after a short period. An overwhelming majority of the local farmers are in debt, and once the farm is no longer available for use, the farmers are not only in debt but also are not able to generate profits from their farms. This has been particularly catastrophic in Vietnam, where over 75% of the farmers are in debt, leading to high rates of poverty and unemployment [24]. The result of this is that the already heavily pressured poor communities are left in a much worse position due to shrimp farming and have no opportunities to earn a living [25].

Reduced Availability of Land and Forest Goods

Millions of people depend on the land and forest goods of mangrove forests for survival, and the results of shrimp farming has had devastating consequences for these individuals [26]. Materials that come from the forest, include but are not limited to: medicine, wax, fuelwood, and timber multipurpose uses. These materials have become scarcer due to deforestation, and the pressure continues to increase on these forests due to increased population sizes [27]. Furthermore, native communities located in Bangladesh had in the past utilized the area surrounding mangroves for the purpose of growing crops and raising livestock. However, as a result of investors purchasing land from the government with the intention of using the land for shrimp farming, these local farmers are left without work [28]. In addition, a devastating amount of native communities and locals have been forced to move out of their homes due to these investors who come and destroy the mangrove forests and the area surrounding the forests. As a result of small villages on shorelines dependence upon mangrove forests for both their food and shelter, the availability of food decreases, causing higher rates of malnutrition, migration, and even death[29]. Also, the ability to fish has been greatly reduced due to the consequences of shrimp farming, leading to a loss of work and also a piece of culture for the coastal communities [30].

Reduced Area of Habitat for Thousands of Species

Mangrove forests are quite complex and unique as a result of their shoreline presence and adaptive nature, as seen in their root structures. Consequently, many of the species that mangrove forests contain are indigenous to them [31]. Shrimp farming involves the destruction of mangrove trees in order to make room for ponds which are then used to raise shrimp, causing a reduction or fragmentation of habitat for these species [32]. The results of shrimp farming in Thailand have been particularly detrimental; with over 50% of original mangrove forests having been converted to ponds for the purpose of shrimp farming [33]. The quick destruction of these mangroves has threatened the status of many species, including the Bengal Tiger and the Proboscis Monkey [34]. In addition, the decrease in population sizes causes the consequence of lower genetic diversity, resulting in greater threats to diseases and environmental hazards, adding more risk to endangered species[35].

Options for Remedial Action(s)[edit | wikitext]

Measures to reach sustainable use of mangrove ecosystems can be focused on interventions before, during or after shrimp farming development. Before introducing intensive shrimp farming or further developing the industry, effective policy must be in place with legal, institutional and regulatory frameworks[36]. Much of mangrove destruction has been the result of lack of effective policy regulating the mangroves, which has left the actors without incentive to produce shrimp in a sustainable manner (REFERENCE). During shrimp farming international, national and local technical, policy and legislative guidelines aimed at the shrimp industry, as well as the market and consumers, voluntary better management practices can be promoted[37]. It is also important that the effective policy is here implemented and enforced. In for example India intensive shrimp farming was banned in ... but we still to this day see a growing industry (REFERENCE). After shrimp farming has stopped interventions are associated with changes in land use and rehabilitation efforts. Restauration of mangroves often involves reforestation using appropriate species[38].

Many of the most environmentally destructive intensive shrimp farms on mangroves are the ones that are not properly funded. By technically advancing those plants or restricting the shrimp farming to only those who can afford the right technology is a technical and legal option. On the other hand this will even further damage the local population.

Today the benefits and costs of intensive shrimp production in Southeast Asia are unevenly spread. The local population are faced with the costs of the environmental destruction while the benefits are collected elsewhere. This could be seen as a marketfailiure due to unaccounted externalities. A solution would then be to internalise these costs in the production costs of the shrimp. Today many governments in Southeast Asia are providing indirect and direct subsidies to the shrimp industry which further distorts the true cost of the production.

Another option could be to return to less intensive ways of shrimp farming. There has been sustainable shrimp farming in Southeast Asia for centuries before the blue revolution. Returning to this way of farming might make the shrimp to costly for the current trade and be consumed more locally.

Recommendations[edit | wikitext]

Governments and Communities

Governments need to increase the amount of regulation but also be sure that those regulations are being followed. It is not realistic to demand that the industry be brought to an abrupt halt, so two main scenarios will be discussed that could be implemented by governments as options for sustainable continuation of the industry to promote enhancement of the environment and local benefits. In order for these scenarios to be implemented, both certification and state regulation is required. There must be codes of conduct and standards in place that limit the area taken up and the chemicals used [39].

1. Landscape Integrated Systems

Smaller scale shrimp farms could have more potential to enhance ecological, economic, and social sustainability. The landscape integrated systems approach proposed by Bush et. al suggests that shrimp farming can continue within mangroves, but it must be done in intertidal areas with a small local producer holding the responsibilities [39]. With this approach, diseases can more easily be monitored and the other ecosystem services that mangroves provide can be left intact and also benefited from [39]. If the size of the farm is kept within a certain limit, the mangroves are able to keep up with the production of effluents and keep the water filtered and clean in addition to providing all the previously mentioned benefits like shade and protection from waves [39]. It is also recommended in this approach that the bottom of the pond be dried and oxidized after every single cycle so that waste does not accumulate over into the next round of shrimp. Another benefit is that these small sized shrimp farms can be maintained by just a few people, as a more farm to table system, meaning that one family could manage, profit, and be sustained from it. With increased responsibility of a manageable area, farm owners may be more inclined to become educated in the environmental effects and therefore will take better care of the land [39]. Most importantly, for there to be successful implementation of this scenarios, local people must be rewarded and receive premiums for the products [39].

Large Companies

2. Closed Systems

The closed system approach is suggested to be one of the more environmentally friendly options, since it does not take place within mangrove ecosystems [39]. These systems are operated in plastic lined ponds or indoor containers that are regularly aerated and sometimes contain populations of shrimp that have been genetically selected for being resistant to disease. The key idea of this approach is that it is a closed system, not interacting with an outside environment such as a mangrove forest or estuary [39]. These systems are easier to clean and control for variables like temperature and rainwater. This system is recommended for large companies and not small communities because it requires a higher investment and more expensive infrastructure. If these two systems are implemented, then large companies will be able to practice intensive shrimp farming in a controlled setting that does not effect the natural environment extensively, therefore freeing up the natural space for small, locally controlled systems to sustainably farm within the intertidal zone [39]. Moving large companies out of the intertidal zone can also allow those areas to recover and/or be restored.

Consumers Worldwide

Raw Shrimp commonly found in grocery stores

The recommendations that can be made to address consumers worldwide would be to raise awareness of where food comes from and how it is produced, and to only purchase shrimp that has ocean wise certification. In order to inform consumers of the implications behind their choices in stores, marketing in countries that import shrimp must be held responsible for correctly labeling packages to include details like how the shrimps were raised, what kind of conditions they were in, the location, and the style of ownership [10].

Conclusion[edit | wikitext]

The shrimp farming industry has a mature history in Southeast Asia, and the mangrove populations provide regulating, supporting and provisioning conditions ideal for shrimp farming. The complex root system of the mangroves provides protection to coastal communities from erosion, tsunamis and storms as well as acts as a natural carbon sink to rising CO2 levels.

However, the recent expansion of the shrimp farming industry in Southeast Asia has caused several negative impacts on the mangrove populations. The use of foreign pesticides and antibiotics to eradicate disease within shrimp culture has lead to hydrology and salinization effects on freshwater and mud conditions, and in addition has lead to the major release of carbon emissions into the environment. Intensive shrimp farming has also caused rural communities to suffer economic and environmental losses when competing against large shrimp farming industries, causing poverty and unemployment to rise. As well, the degradation of the mangroves has threatened the status of many species who rely of them for habitat.

To combat the degradation of mangroves in shrimp farming areas, the prefered solution would be to implement policy interventions before, during and after the shrimp farming process for a more sustainable development. Much of the mangrove degradation has been due to the lack of effective policy regulations, causing large companies without incentive to produce shrimp in an unsustainable way. More technical, policy and legislative guidelines aimed at the shrimp farming industry, the market and the consumers can promote better management practices. In order to alleviate mangrove degradation, it is vital that this policy aimed at the shrimp farming industry is implemented and enforced.

Therefore, it is proposed that the Southeast Asian governments develop more effective policies for before, during and after shrimp farming developments. Technical, policy and legislative guidelines at the international, national and local stages that are enforced are believed to make a more sustainable and environmental impact on the industry. This can be achieved through industrial code of conduct, community based management of shrimp farming industries and the implementation of mangrove rehabilitation on behalf of these companies.

References[edit | wikitext]

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