Is It Time To Re-examine the Requirements for Shrimp Farm Certification? – Part 2

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Is It Time To Re-examine the Requirements for Shrimp Farm Certification? – Part 2

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Wild Fish Use

Shrimp feeds usually contain between 15 and 20% fish meal. This makes it difficult for producers to achieve a fish in – fish out ratio of 1.0 or less. Because shrimp aquaculture consumes a large amount of fish meal – about 27% of total aquaculture use in 2006 (Tacon and Metain 2008) – reduction in fish meal use should be a major concern in certification.

A great dilemma exists with respect to the amount of fish meal actually necessary in shrimp feed. A number of studies over the past decade have demonstrated that fish meal can be entirely replaced in shrimp feed with no reduction in FCR and production (Davis et al. 2008). However, to our knowledge, this research has basically been ignored by feed producers and farmers. An effort is needed to determine whether shrimp feeds containing no fish meal are equivalent to feeds with fish meal. If they are, it seems incumbent upon shrimp certification programs to require feeds with no fish meal or at least with a much lower fish meal inclusion rate than presently found in most shrimp feeds.

Energy Use

Energy is used directly for pumping water, aerating ponds, harvesting shrimp and several other purposes at the farm-level in shrimp aquaculture just as it is in most types of aquaculture. Energy also is embodied in aquaculture inputs – especially in feed. There is an urgent need to conserve energy, because fossil fuel, of which there is a finite supply, is the major energy source for most human endeavors, shrimp farming included. In addition, fossil fuel use is mainly responsible for the increasing carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere. Despite these realities, we believe that a new paradigm related to global energy sources is necessary (Boyd and McNevin 2015a), and in the meanwhile, it is acceptable to trade greater energy use for more efficient and less environmentally degrading shrimp production to meet the increasing demand for this product. Of course, shrimp farms should be required to conserve energy, but we do not see how it is possible to meet projected future demand for shrimp in a responsible way without using more energy. We would argue that shrimp are an unessential food item, and it likely makes sense to limit shrimp consumption. However, there is no precedent for regulating consumption of food or other agricultural products unless they represent health or societal risks perceived as extremely serious by an overwhelming majority of the populace.

Conclusions

Certification can lead to greater efficiency in use of most of the resources needed for shrimp aquaculture. It also can reduce negative environmental impacts at the farm-level. However, unless the majority of the shrimp production in an area becomes certified, the impacts of other farms may mask the benefits of certification. In some areas, certification of all shrimp farms would not result in positive environmental change, because of the negative impacts of other activities. Major improvements in environmental quality in some shrimp farming areas would require drastic changes in governmental regulation and enforcement of all activities within the coastal zone. Nevertheless, certification can make farms more resource use efficient and environmentally responsible. They also can serve to demonstrate the benefits of better practices.

Certification requires the producer to conduct various assessments, develop management plans, implement the certification program, monitor waste discharge, and contract with an accredited auditor to verify initial and continuing compliance. We suggest that all aspects of this complex and expensive procedure may have been desirable in the initial years of certification, but the requirements and standards of certification programs should be continually reviewed and revised in light of new findings, experiences, and technology.

Those involved with requirements for certification hopefully understand that the purpose of these programs is to lessen negative environmental impacts. This is accomplished by implementing good practices and monitoring to demonstrate whether a farm is compliant with the standards. Thus, the standards should not be the requirement to display written plans related to major indicators, but to demonstrate that the farm is compliant with verifiable standards related to each indicator. For example, preparation of an acceptable feed management plan filed in an accessible place should not be a standard despite being nice and convenient. The standard should be that the farm is compliant with good feed management by having an FCR equal to or less than the certification program standard for FCR. The same logic applies to all such management plans.

In a recent visit to a certified shrimp farm, we were required to check in, obtain and wear a visitor’s badge, fill out a personal data form, and answer queries about recent contact with livestock or shrimp and our health status. The buildings were numbered and spotlessly neat. The grounds also were neat and everything was in its place. We were ushered into a conference room where an array of assessments and management plans were displayed. But in discussions with farm management, it was immediately apparent from their responses to our questions that they were clueless about how anything other than the accounting aspects of the certification were to be achieved. They had no idea about how to minimize negative impacts.

The accounting aspects of certification programs are easy – just tedious and time consuming. These aspects should be minimized and emphasis placed on improving activities that have an environmental impact. We know that this statement should seem unnecessary, but all involved in certification should remember the purpose of the effort and not confuse appearance with effectiveness.

We believe that it is time to seriously reexamine the requirements and standards for shrimp farm certification and revise them to focus on the critical issues. Shrimp farm certification will not yield its potential benefits unless it actually leads to environmental improvement and the majority of shrimp aquaculture becomes certified. Simplification of the standards with emphasis on those causing the major improvements would lessen the cost of certification and make it more appealing to producers.

Source: Claude E. Boyd, School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, 36849 USA. – Aaron A. McNevin, Director of Aquaculture World Wildlife Fund, Washington, D.C. 20037 USA – Aquaculture Magazine.

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