Seafood buyers are increasingly looking for ways to understand and reduce the environmental risks in their supply chains, notably in shrimp aquaculture. A new Coastal Habitat Mapping Tool by Clark Labs provides insights regarding habitat conversion which might answer that. Combining high quality satellite imagery and expert geospatial analysis, Clark Labs’ aquaculture mapping tool offers a look at historical landscape changes for critical wetlands habitats, including mangroves, and aquaculture pond cover in major shrimp exporting countries around the world.
Conversion-Free Farmed Shrimp
As the footprint for farmed shrimp production has rapidly expanded, it has often done so at the cost of mangrove forests in some major producing countries. Half of all mangroves worldwide have been lost since the 1940s, with farmed shrimp production accounting for 30% to 50% of the losses. While clearing mangroves for farming is illegal in many producing countries, including Thailand, India, and Ecuador, the practice still occurs in some critical geographies and continues to be a pressing issue.
Preserving these ecosystems and their functions is critical to mitigating the effects of climate change, protecting wildlife, and ensuring community livelihoods. Mangrove forests are a vital coastal ecosystem that stabilizes shorelines in the intertidal zones of sub-tropical countries.
Beyond the thousands of rare, iconic, and threatened species that inhabit them, mangroves also provide many valuable ecological functions, including filtering water, protecting shores from erosion, and serving as a natural barrier against storms. They also store three to four times more carbon than tropical forests and may be one of our best defenses against climate change. It is critical that the future expansion of farmed shrimp does not drive the loss of additional intact mangrove ecosystems.