Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sustainable shrimp from Oregon

Do you love shrimp but worry about the harm caused by shrimp fishing or shrimp farming? Well, good news, some Oregon shrimp have just been certified as sustainable.

Shrimp is America's favorite seafood, but most shrimp are farmed or caught with destructive methods. Shrimp trawling usually kills turtles and other fish, in large amounts (up to 4 times more "other" things than shrimp) and tears up the ocean bottom. Shrimp farming usually destroys coastal habitats to make shrimp ponds.

The Oregon pink shrimp are caught with much lower environmental impacts and are one type of shirmp that you can enjoy without feeling guilty. I'm happy to see this progress, the Oregon pink shrimp fishery had some problems in 2001 when I served on a management advisory panel. But diligent work has produced progress and now recognition.

The Marine Stewardship Council is the leading sustainability certifier for fisheries. Ask your favorite seafood seller for Oregon pink shrimp with the sustainability certification.

12 comments:

Kevin Z said...

Great news since I am astute lover of all things crustacean. Will it say on the packaging it came from Oregon? Or be stamped with the MSC logo?

Mark Powell said...

Oregon shrimp sellers must work out some chain of custody details to get the MSC sticker. I expect they will do good marketing to take advantage of this certification. They already try to get their product marked Oregon pink shrimp by seafood retailers.

Ask your seafood seller for Oregon pink shrimp that's MSC certified so they know you want it. It's good shrimp.

Anonymous said...

and what about the benthic impacts of the trawl gear? Were these considered? Are they a problem?

Mark Powell said...

Bentic impacts and other details are in the MSC report at http://www.msc.org/assets/docs/Oregon_pink_shrimp/Final_PISG.pdf
In brief, shrimp trawling is in the least sensitive habitat type, mud/sand bottom, and the fishery management process has set aside some areas as no-trawl zones to protect some habitat areas from impacts. This fishery seems to be about as good as is possible for a bottom trawl fishery. Is that zero impact? No, but it's better than most fisheries for bottom-dwelling animals.

Kevin Z said...

shrimp trawling is in the least sensitive habitat type

least sensitive as in least understood, as in least purdy thingy's sticking up, as in least important to fund?

Mark Powell said...

Good question Kevin. Least sensitive means habitats with fewer long-lived animals and greater ability to recover from a trawl disturbance. The focus was not on protecting every invert, rather the focus was on protecting structure-forming inverts like deep water corals. It was a victory to get even that protection, remember, and we did have to go with charisma (i.e. corals).

Anonymous said...

so where does this leave California shrimp? They're the same boats (many have both CA and OR permits), using the same methods. Just curious.

Mark Powell said...

The Oregon Trawl Commission was the applicant, and the certification covers the Oregon fishery. The way the MSC process works, a "fishery" self-defines and applies, and in this case Oregon took the initiative and gets to reap the rewards. A California group could do it too if they want.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't recently published work by Hixon and Tissot (2007 - see abstract below) suggest that trawl impacts to Oregon's soft bottom communities, including those targeted by the shrimp fishery, is significant? Shouldn't this be of concern, even if it was published after the application was made and evaluated?

Comparison of trawled vs untrawled mud seafloor assemblages of fishes and macroinvertebrates at Coquille Bank, Oregon

Mark A. Hixona, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author and Brian N. Tissotb
aDepartment of Zoology, Oregon State University, 3029 Cordley Hall, Corvallis, Oregon 97331-2914, USA
bProgram in Environmental Science and Regional Planning, Washington State University Vancouver, 14204 NE Salmon Creek Avenue, Vancouver, Washington 98686-9600 USA
Received 13 September 2006; revised 24 October 2006; accepted 18 December 2006. Available online 1 March 2007.

Abstract

We report the first quantitative comparison of trawled vs untrawled mud seafloor communities off the west coast of North America. Using a manned submersible, we ran visual transects at Coquille Bank, 25 km off the central coast of Oregon, USA, including six half-hour (mean length 1184 m) transects over mud seafloors 183–361 m deep. The shallowest transects were untrawled, whereas deeper transects were heavily trawled, as evidenced by extensive trawl-door tracks. Differences between trawled and untrawled seafloor assemblages were striking. We observed 23% more fish over untrawled compared to trawled seafloors, and recorded 27 fish species on untrawled bottoms, but only 19 species on trawled seafloors. Regarding benthic invertebrates, density of individuals was 6 times greater on untrawled compared to trawled bottoms. Nonetheless, we observed 11 taxa on trawled seafloors and only 6 taxa on untrawled bottoms. Principal components analysis (PCA) defined the untrawled assemblage as characterized by sea pens, ratfish, sablefish, ronquil, slender sole, and poacher. PCA defined the trawled assemblage as characterized by seastars, hermit crabs, bigfin eelpout, Dover sole, hagfish, and shortspine thornyhead. In untrawled areas, there was no correlation between sea-pen density and total fish density, whereas in trawled areas, there was a marginally inverse correlation between the density of trawl-door tracks and total fish density. The dominant fishes and macroinvertebrates on trawled seafloors are known mobile scavengers that may aggregate along trawl-door tracks. Sea pens that dominated untrawled bottoms are sessile, slow-growing, long-lived species that are likely to recover slowly from physical disturbance. We conclude that the observed differences between trawled and untrawled communities were the result of groundfishing activities rather than local environmental differences. Given that habitat considerations for groundfish management in this region focus exclusively on rocky seafloors, it seems prudent to consider the adverse effects of bottom trawling on mud seafloor ecosystems of the continental shelf and slope.

Keywords: Bottom trawling effects; Demersal fishes; Macroinvertebrates; Mud seafloors

Mark Powell said...

What's your suggestion anonymous? Bottom trawl impacts are important, and they were considered in the certification. Do you think they weren't considered adequately? Do you think that the fishery is not sustainable? Do you doubt the credibility of the MSC process? How do YOU evaluate the significance of the habitat disturbance?

Note that I'm not the MSC, I'm reporting results from an organization that I think has credibility.

I think this shrimp fishery is probably one of the most sustainable shrimp fisheries that exists, based on my experience. I won't say it has zero impact. If we're going to catch shrimp, then this is about as good as it gets. If every other shrimp fishery could get impacts down to this level, then I think ocean ecosystems would be in much better condition.

Or, do you want to have a debate about the definition of "sustainable?"

OCEANREVOLUTION.org said...

I guess the take home message is shrimpSUCK.org

: )

But some shrimp suck less, like the MSC certified Oregon pink shrimp. And some are even better that that (closed-system, organic, farmed).

Few people, even card carrying enviros, have any idea of the massive ocean destruction connected to the #1 seafood in the US.

MSC Oregon pink shrimp would be the best choice for Oregonians who feel they must have shrimp.

Check out Marvesta (www.marvesta.com)

Anonymous said...

where can you buy the pink shrimp