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New shrimp farming method could help preserve mangroves around the world

Posted at 3:36 PM, Mar 27, 2024

DENVER — If you love seafood, chances are shrimp are a staple, whether they're dipped in cocktail sauce or wrapped in a sushi roll.

United Nations data found that over the past 30 years, shrimp farms have increased production by 1,000% but conservation groups say it's come at the expense of mangroves.

“About 40% of global mangroves have been cut down and shrimp farming has been one of the primary drivers of that deforestation,” said Dane Klinger, an aquaculture expert and the senior director for Blue Foods with Conservation International.

He says mangrove forests are not only rich with biodiversity and serve as a host to various bird, fish and reptile species, but they are also important in combating climate change.

“Mangroves protect shorelines against storm surge, against sea level rise. They also have a lot of carbon embedded in both the trees themselves and in the soil and so when you lose mangroves, you not only lose carbon into the atmosphere, but you also lose critical coastal resilience,” Klinger said.

He found that most shrimp farms are low productivity; a two-acre farm only results in 1,000 pounds of shrimp at a time.

So, Klinger wants to grow more shrimp in a smaller space and restore mangroves on the rest of the land. The challenge is shrimp don't have good immune systems so if one gets a disease, there's a risk all of them could. But Klinger says he has found a way to make it work.

“It's taking an earthen pond and sometimes lining the pond, adding aerators, adding auto feeders, training staff to use best practices,” Klinger said.

These tools can help farmers better manage the quality of the water and conditions in the farm will make growing more shrimp, safer. All of that is expensive though, so now, they're setting up a dedicated loan fund to pay for these changes and training.

“We saw this as an opportunity to help farmers get access to financing, get access to expertise to intensify on a portion of their farm, allowing them to produce more strength and make more money, but also allowing them to restore mangroves on the rest of their farm,” Klinger said.

The pilot programs are being tested in Indonesia and Ecuador. They're hoping to prove this concept can work on a larger scale, and with this approach people will be able to have their shrimp and mangroves too, and impact earth.