Why It Matters
Overfishing Makes Stocks Less Stable
Very few shrimp stocks appear to be stable. Examples of stocks harvested to optimal levels include fisheries in Australia, the U.S., and two stocks in Mexico (Pacific and Atlantic brown shrimp). All other stocks, including most other stocks in Mexico, are experiencing strong declines. In fisheries with open access regimes (e.g. India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Nigeria, and Guyana) fishing effort may need to be cut by at least 50 percent in order to restore fisheries to sustainable levels.
Shrimp Fishing Causes Conflicts
The growth in artisanal fisheries which often catch smaller-sized shrimp from inshore breeding and nursery areas is having a severe impact on both shrimp stocks and the economics of offshore vessels. The focus on managing larger vessels in the absence of similar management efforts for inshore fisheries is a significant shortcoming, and often results in conflicts between small fishers and larger ones. This is especially relevant when industrial vessels operate illegally in nearshore areas reserved for artisanal fishermen.
Many governments focus on food security and the political risks of limiting access to shrimp harvesting rather than on long-term environmental, economic, and social sustainability issues. This short-term outlook has spawned a reluctance to adapt management initiatives that focus on limiting bycatch. Markets have consequently developed for bycatch species, which may include food for coastal populations and, in some cases, inputs to fishmeal used as feed in the aquaculture sector. Short-term focus is ill founded and contradicts the rationale for supporting long-term sustainability of the resource in the interests of food security and benefits to coastal communities.