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Chinese New Year is just around the corner, and people are busy planning their family reunion dinners and celebrations. Now that “shark fin free” has become an established green dining trend, it’s time to take the next step and make your New Year’s menu more sustainable!
Wild-caught shrimp from the South China Sea
Shrimp are popular in Chinese cuisine because of their auspicious meaning, which is basically “laughing and staying happy all the time”. However the harvesting of shrimp, if not performed properly, can create serious environmental impacts. Take shrimp from the South China Sea for example: these shrimp are usually, if not always, caught by bottom trawling – an extremely destructive fishing technique which negatively impacts the seabed and disrupts underwater ecosystems. In addition, bottom trawling can lead to large scale by-catch, where non-target species are caught along with the shrimp. By-catch often consists of fish species which are already overfished or even threatened, the juveniles of fish species, and on some occasions even turtles and sharks. If bottom trawling continues, the net result will be a significant drop in fishery production. This will eventually lead to even fewer choices of seafood being available in the future, and what is left will command a higher price. Recent research conducted by the University of British Columbia reports that marine resources in the South China Sea have been fished down to between 5% and 30% of their 1950s levels.
© Jürgen Freund / WWF
Farmed shrimp from Asia
On the surface, shrimp farming may seem like a viable solution. However, poorly-managed shrimp farms may cause the clearance of wetlands and mangrove habitats. Antibiotics and chemicals added to shrimp ponds may also pollute the surrounding soil and rivers if effluent is left untreated or not kept in check.
© WWF-Madagascar / WWF-Canon
In addition to the environmental challenges involved in the harvesting and cultivation of shrimp, much of the processed shrimp on the market is imported from Thailand, where the shrimp fishery has been found to involve serious illegal labour problems. Recent news reports indicate that shrimp processors in Thailand may be using illegal immigrants and child labourers, who are treated as a source of cheap or even free labour. Continuing to consume shrimp processed in such plants is equivalent to supporting this unethical industry.
You have a choice!
Are you sad at having to “say no” to shrimp? You don’t have to be! Instead, “say yes” to sustainable shrimp! Shrimp products which have Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) or Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) labels are your best choice, as these products have been certified to have been farmed or harvested in compliance with legal and sustainability standards. Better still, download WWF’s Seafood Guide smartphone app and look for restaurants across Hong Kong which offer our Ocean Friendly Menu. Join us and enjoy the Year of the Monkey in a fun, happy and eco-friendly way!