Down on the Shrimp Farm

Science  18 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5985, pp. 1504-1505
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5985.1504

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Sludge dumping, along with other environmentally harmful practices, gave shrimp farming a bad reputation. But in the past 15 years, many shrimp farmers have been cleaning up their act. Although motivated more by economics than environmental concerns, they have made substantial strides in many places to reduce their toll on the marine world, both locally and globally. Researchers around the world are refining a system called biofloc technology that relies on cultivating microbes to recycle nutrients and reduce waste. Academics and companies are also striving to improve processed shrimp feed and replace the fish meal it contains with other protein sources, a change that could help prevent further depletion of fish species at the base of oceanic food webs. Ultimately, by making shrimp aquaculture more productive—through breeding programs and perhaps high-tech inland farms—some researchers hope they can grow cheaper, more plentiful shrimp while sparing marine habitats altogether.