Case: Shrimps

Categorie(s): Cases, Food for Mankind

SHRIMPS, from the WILD or from the FARM?

“Sukadi lives near the coast of East Java (Indonesia). Sometimes in the holiday he goes with his uncle – who is a fisherman – out to sea. Before his uncle would fish for shrimps, but nowadays shrimps do not give a good price anymore, because in many places shrimps are grown in fishponds, and the farm shrimps are much cheaper. Only a few people will pay a high price for shrimps from the sea.
Sukadi has a pen friend in Holland called Thomas. They write letters and e-mails every week and tell about live in their countries.
Sukadi writes about the fishing trip and asks if shrimps are also eaten in Holland.  

Tradtional shrimp fishing

Sukadi writes about the fishing trip and asks if shrimps are also eaten in Holland.
Thomas writes: “Yes we also like them. When my parents were young they were very expensive, but now you can buy them everywhere. My father tells me that they may come from your country, but that the way they are grown is not good for the environment, so we do not eat them at home.”
Sukadi writes back: “But people here need the money, so you should eat them!”
Thomas answers: “Why do they not try to grow the shrimps so that they don’t poison the place around the pond? Than we will eat lots of shrimps!”

Sukadi goes to different people to learn about the problem and after two weeks he can explain the situation better. He writes a long letter to Thomas about what he has found out:

“Shrimp has a high value. Many people like to consume shrimp because of the delicious taste. This pushes people to increase shrimp production and therefore the number of fishponds is growing.In Indonesia an area with many fishponds is East Java. In this area the community has traditionally been fishermen and fishpond farmers for shrimp.
From year to year the ecosystem quality in mangrove areas is decreasing because of the many fishponds. The people have cut the mangrove to make fishponds. They didn’t understand about the important function of the mangrove, in economical and ecological aspects.
In the damaged ecosystem some original sea animals from this area went extinct. And there are now much less animals in their area like fish and crab. The other effect is the abrasion of the coast that makes 1,5 ha mainland disappear every year. Because of the use of chemicals shrimp fishponds often become unproductive, they are left and the polluted place needs many many years to recover.
Modern techniques make it possible to let machines do what people did before so young people (boys and girls) leave the village to find a job in the city or even in other countries (urbanization).
So we must find ways to grow shrimps in a sustainable way: clean and giving jobs to local people.”

healthy mangrove

Thomas writes back:” Shrimps must not be so cheap then, I tell my parents to buy the most expensive ones for my birthday!”



1 Think of possibilities of good methods to have fishponds without damage to the mangrove (and the land)?
2. How can we restore the mangrove ecosystem?
3. The modern aquaculture (growing animals in water, you could call in ‘water farming’) is more economical (shrimps are cheaper now) but less ecological than fishing. In many cases economy and ecology seem to be opposed. But in the long run good ecological practice is also more economical. Explain this, and find more examples of this.
4. The traditional fish and shrimp ponds were often managed by the women. Modern aquaculture companies mostly employ men (because there are more technical aspects). Women loose their work. This is another problem for the local people. Explain why good education for the girls is necessary for the well being of the whole population – and why this even has to do with shrimps!
5. Why do economists have to learn more about ecology?
6. If you live in a rich country: Does it help if you stop eating shrimps? What else can you do to help solving this type of problems?

Shrimp aquaculture (in West Africa)

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Case suggested by
Bahri Rahmat (Lombok), Arik S Wartono (East Java), Juliana L. Tomasouw (Sulawesi). all from Indonesia.