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Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue Heads to Belize

Standards to be Created for Certifying Farmed Shrimp from Central America and Mexico

WASHINGTON, DC: The first meeting to begin developing standards for certifying responsible shrimp farming in Central America and Mexico will be April 1-2 in Belize. The standards will help reduce or eliminate the key environmental and social impacts related to shrimp aquaculture – one of the fastest growing types of aquaculture in the world.

The region’s leading shrimp farmers and processors, as well as retailers, academics, government officials, nongovernmental agency representatives and others are expected to participate in the Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue. 

“We view, with much excitement, the interest in a certification program in Belize,” said Alvin Henderson of Royal Mayan Shrimp Farm in Belize. “Our farmers understand that the industry’s farming practices must be sustainable. We are committed to adopting practices to sustain what has become a livelihood to several thousand workers and their families.”  

The main goals of the meeting are to create criteria for reducing each of the key impacts associated with shrimp farming, such as organic waste polluting the water and clearing ecologically sensitive habitat to create shrimp ponds; elect a Steering Committee; and discuss a process for moving forward. Over the course of the year, Dialogue participants will finalize the criteria and create indicators, or points of measurement to determine the extent of each impact. The final step will be developing measurable performance standards to evaluate whether the high-level goals for shrimp farming are being achieved.

The standards will be based on the “International Principles for Shrimp Farming” that were adopted in 2006 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The principles were written by the Shrimp Farming and Environment Consortium, a group that includes Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Bank, Network of Aquaculture Centres of Asia-Pacific, the United Nations Environmental Program and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

“The fact that we can begin this discussion with principles in hand is exciting,” said Jose Villalon, director of the WWF-US Aquaculture Program and a 26-year veteran of the shrimp farming industry. “It will allow us to jump into an open dialogue about the science-based criteria that will be used to evaluate shrimp farms.”

“Over the past two years, WWF’s Central America office and the Belize Shrimp Growers Association have been discussing a plan for certifying shrimp farms,” added Mauricio Mejia, agriculture/aquaculture program officer for WWF-Central America. “This regional workshop will be a tremendous help in finalizing the plan so that, among other things, pollution will be substantially reduced in the Mesoamerican Reef area – a priority area for WWF.” 

Two or three additional meetings will be held in the region over the next year to continue the discussion. Similar meetings will be convened to develop standards for East Africa and Asia. These three sets of standards will be harmonized into one global set of standards.

The Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue in Central America/Mexico is one of five WWF-initiated Dialogues underway globally. Standards also are being developed for salmon, tilapia, pangasius and molluscs. Dialogues for seaweed, trout and abalone will begin later this year.

If you are interested in attending the shrimp Dialogue meeting, which will be held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina in Belize City, please contact Eric Bernard at or Mauricio Mejia at by March 15th.  

For additional information about the Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue and all of the WWF Dialogues, go to


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