Friday, June 30, 2017

Hodgepodge 244/365 - Shrimp

The other day I wrote about salmon (for eating). Today we bought some shrimp to cook up in a stir-fry, and as I shelled them, I wondered if we'd bought a "best choice," or even an "alternative choice," as deemed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program. Here are my findings:

The splash page for shrimp at Seafood Watch has this summary: "Most 'Best Choice' shrimp ('ebi' in sushi) is caught in Alaska, but there are other great farmed and wild options. . . . Only buy imported shrimp if you’re sure it’s from a 'Best Choice' or 'Good Alternative' source. Over 90% of shrimp on the U.S. market is imported."

My shrimp are not from Alaska. They are previously frozen farmed critters from India. I will be very surprised if they pass muster.

But first: do you know the difference between a shrimp and a prawn? It's not a matter of size (large = prawn, small = shrimp), or of national preference (Brits tend to call prawns what we Americans refer to as shrimp). They are actually different species, in different suborders of the order Decapoda (phylum Arthropoda, subphylum Crustacea). The basic differences are as shown here:

So in fact, what we here in Monterey Bay call spot prawns are actually
. . . shrimp. (Getting a grilled "spot prawn" with its brood of eggs is always a treat. Yes, really.)

But never mind all that. Basically, what we eat here in the U.S. is "shrimp." No need to complicate things with taxonomy.

Back to what's on our table. There are 15 "Best Choices," including trapped, trawled and pond-raised shrimp/prawns of various sorts: whiteleg, spot, sidestriped, northern, coonstriped; giant tiger and giant freshwater prawn. Most are caught or grown in Canada (western and eastern), Alaska, the U.S., and South and Central America, but some types are grown "worldwide."

There are 29 "Good Alternatives," including Atlantic seabob shrimp; brown rock and Pacific rock shrimp; and pink, royal red, and white shrimp. Methods include otter trawls, bottom trawls, skimmer trawls, plain ol' trawls, and also ponds of various sorts.

And, let's just cut to the chase: there are 39 shrimp types to be "Avoided." I'm betting our Indian shrimp are on this list. Of course, I have no idea just what kind of shrimp we bought: the sign just said, shrimp, with a count per pound. But let's say it's whiteleg shrimp: the Indian variety is definitely under the NO category. The reasons? In short, "The industry is made up of thousands of farms, so there's low confidence that the available data is accurate and up-to-date. Data on environmental impacts is especially limited. There's also a lack of data on antibiotic use, and it's likely that antibiotics listed as critically important to human health are used. Published information on the frequency, magnitude, or impacts of escapes is also unavailable." Basically, we don't know if the Indian aquaculturists are doing an environmentally responsible job, or whether they use antibiotics (which is one of the chief harms of poorly managed aquaculture ventures—trying to keep crowded populations healthy, or at least alive). So if we don't know? Best to avoid. Sigh.

Well, I just heard "Dinner's ready." I guess this will be my last shrimp feast until I can find a more sustainable source. Or maybe I should just switch to vegetarianism. That would be a whole lot easier than being a responsible omnivore . . .

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