Natural Resource Use

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Natural Resource Efficiency in Farmed Shrimp

Food production is the largest driver of habitat conversion and biodiversity loss, accounting for significant amounts of the world’s habitable land use, pollution of freshwater and marine environments, and exploitation of global fish stocks. We currently consume more resources than what the planet can sustain, and our remaining natural ecosystems must be preserved if our natural systems are to continue to function and if we are to support an ever-growing population. To protect nature, we must cultivate and grow food efficiently and with minimal waste. We must produce more food using less resources.

Shrimp farming, one of the most valuable segments of the global seafood industry, is resource-intensive—using large amounts of land, energy, water, and wild fish as a feed ingredient. There are approximately 2.4 million hectares of shrimp ponds in the world, with 96% of shrimp coming from 1.4 million ha of the total pond area, meaning approximately 4% of shrimp is being produced with 40% of that pond area. Resources can and must be used more efficiently.

Shrimp aquaculture is ripe for transformation. What is required today is a step-change that demonstrates and quantifies an improvement pathway for shrimp farming. This means production that conserves natural resources, protects the planet’s natural climate mitigation systems—particularly mangrove forests—and secures the labor and human rights of those involved in production and ensures a livelihood for producers, workers, and local communities. This is the only way to continue to expand the volume of shrimp to meet the growing future consumer demand.

Intensive systems were designed to increase profitability and made possible by technological advances in formulated feed and aeration systems. However, intensive production alone is not a panacea. Numerous disease outbreaks have occurred due to the stress that increased stocking density imparts on a shrimp’s immune system. The response has been to push for more systematic control, eliminating or reducing the interaction aquaculture systems have with surrounding natural ecosystems.

Shrimp farming is very resource-intensive—using large amounts of land, energy, water, and wild fish as a feed ingredient. Our goal is to decrease farm and feed use of natural resources by 30% by 2025.

© Antonio Busiello/WWF-US
Across the board, as farms become more intensive, the operating cost and environmental burden per unit produced decreases. Optimizing an aquaculture production system for resource use also results in optimization of business value.


Land Use
Economic analyses conducted by WWF have shown several key indicators for how controlled intensification can be better for the triple bottom line. For example, controlled intensification can reduce the costs of land use per unit of production by more than 90%
Energy Use
The most intensive farms can be the more efficient they are in energy use as well, with energy costs that could be 74% to 89% lower than extensive operations, according to the same study.
Total Cost
On farms in Thailand and Vietnam, the contribution of annual fixed costs to total costs decreased from 35-50% to 4-20% as production intensity increased.
Feed Cost
More than half of the operating costs at shrimp farms are associated with feed. Decreasing the amount of feed used per unit of farmed product by just 10% can spare 106,000 ha of land, 141 million cubic meters (m3) of water, 468,000 tons of wild fish and 3.6 million gigajoules (GJ) of energy, in addition to significant cost savings. A 10% decrease in feed conversion rate across Thailand and Vietnam would equate to savings from $85 to $110 million for farmers.


  • Make a commitment to source responsibly farmed shrimp that is produced with minimal impact on natural resources (land, energy, water, wild fish).

  • Source certified seafood with robust environmental standards like the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), which includes science-based metrics for resource use for farmed shrimp and other species.

  • Engage with government and policy influencers in a precompetitive setting like the Seafood Task Force  to support solutions that ensure responsible farmed shrimp production, strengthen seafood traceability, and uphold human and labor rights in seafood supply chains.

  • Discuss natural resource efficiency in farmed shrimp with your suppliers and encourage them to source from farms that are transitioning to controlled intensification.

  • Use traceability technologies that collect resource use data. Track direct and indirect carbon emissions (Scope 1–3) throughout the supply chain along with waste, energy, water use, and feed ingredients (Scopes 1-3 of the GHG Protocol).


WWF is collaborating with key end buyers and manufacturers throughout the shrimp value chain to encourage businesses to source their products in a resource-conscious manner that allows for more shrimp to be produced while keeping current land footprint of farms static.

© Nicolas Axelrod-RUOM / WWF-US

Controlled Intensification

Controlled intensification is a system that enhances technology and
operations to optimize land, water, and energy use, while increasing shrimp output, survivability, and profitability. Increasing efficiency is important for farmers regardless of size and scale, to streamline
operations and capture more profits.

Regardless of current production practices, farmers can implement foundational technologies to transition to more controlled intensification. There are four categories of technologies that will have the most significant impact on a shrimp producer’s ability to transition in the near-term and the profitability of intensified systems in the future (Materials and Biotechnology, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, Connectivity Platforms, Mechanization). By using these technol-ogies and practices, farmers can better predict and control yields,
reduce costs and externalities, and drive efficiency.

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