16.12.2014

Sustainable shrimp farming conserves mangroves

Person sitting at river bank

Shrimp farming in Viet Nam. Picture: Aidan Dockery.

Shrimp aquaculture is an important source of income for many people in Viet Nam, yet it often harms coastal ecosystems, especially endangered mangrove forests. They are frequently chopped down or damaged by the wastewater from the shrimp ponds, which are full of faeces, uneaten feed, pesticides and pharmaceutical residues. However, sound shrimp farming practices also exist, which protect valuable ecosystems, while at the same time safeguarding people's income. The worldwide demand for sustainably farmed shrimp is rising. Two companies in Viet Nam - one farming shrimp (Ca Mau Organic Shrimp Farming) and the other processing it (Minh Phu Seafood Corp) - have received Naturland certification. This attests that their production methods are environmentally sound, which enables them to sell their goods at better prices. A total of 741 shrimp farmers benefit from the certification.

The companies have to meet certain standards to achieve certification. For example, mangrove logging is strictly prohibited and former mangrove areas have to be reforested. Furthermore, the shrimp have to be farmed in conditions that replicate natural conditions as closely as possible and do not use antibiotics, pesticides or artificial fertilisers.

Both companies had to prepare for the inspection carried out by Naturland and make changes or improvements to their production and working practices. They were supported by a project funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and implemented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The project advised the two companies and helped to set up partnerships between them and also with exporters that would guarantee funding for the new farming methods. Minh Phu committed to paying the shrimp famers 10 per cent more for goods with Naturland certification.

Shrimp in bagIn this way, the shrimp farmers are contributing to the conservation of Viet Nam's mangrove forests. That in turn is important for the conservation of biodiversity and also for adaptation to extreme weather events, which are likely to increase as a result of climate change. Viet Nam's long coastline puts it at serious risk from tropical storms and floods. Here mangroves provide natural protection and are also nursery areas for many species of fauna. By protecting these ecosystems local people can safeguard their natural resources and livelihoods, thereby reducing their vulnerability to the threats associated with climate change.