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October 23, 2014


Organic Shrimp Farming in the Mangroves


SNV Netherlands Development Organization integrates shrimp aquaculture with mangrove protection in Cà Mau, Vietnam.


In the humid pre-dawn darkness of southern Vietnam’s mangrove deltas, Van Cong To is hard at work hauling nets to harvest shrimp for the world’s markets.  Before the early morning light tints the estuaries of Cà Mau Province, Van and his wife and child will have sorted 50 kilograms of shrimp for delivery to a nearby seafood processing plant.  There, Van’s shrimp will be graded, frozen and packed for export all over the globe.


The profitability of shrimp exports in recent years encouraged Van and thousands of other farmers in the deltas of Cà Mau, Vietnam, to convert from rice farming to intensive shrimp aquaculture—the fastest growing food source globally.  Cà Mau is home to half of Vietnam’s shrimp production, an export industry worth $3.1 billion in 2013 alone.  Van’s family, like many others, depends upon shrimp farming for their livelihood.  “Previously, farmers could make $2,825 to $3,295 per year.  Having joined this project, we are able to make $7,062 to $9,416,” Van said.


Mangrove forest is the natural habitat and breeding ground of shrimp—providing wild feedstock, organic waste for food and shade, and root structures for shelter.  In response to the rising global demand for shrimp over the past three decades, over half of Vietnam’s natural mangrove forest has been cleared to accommodate shrimp aquaculture ponds.  Due to rapid expansion and insufficient environmental standards, the deltas of Cà Mau are now pockmarked with failed shrimp ponds, abandoned because of high costs and decreasing returns due to erosion, pollution, and shrimp disease.  The development of shrimp aquaculture in Vietnam has come at the expense of the mangrove environment—reducing incomes and increasing the vulnerability of the livelihood of Van and others.


Mangroves are integral to natural ecosystems, protecting against tidal waves and storm surges, and providing vital fish nursery grounds.  They also function as blue carbon sinks.  Carbon sequestration—removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in vegetation and soils—plays a critical role in managing global greenhouse gas emissions by mitigating climate change.  Blue carbon is carbon captured and stored by living coastal and marine organisms.  The blue carbon that is locked away in coastal wetlands such as mangroves is critical to managing excess carbon in the atmosphere as it has extremely long residence times, potentially for millennia.


Increasingly, sustainability experts recognize the need for a new approach that preserves the critical environmental protection provided by the mangroves while also providing a sustainable basis for the shrimp farming industry.  SNV Netherlands Development Organization has taken up this challenge with the Mangroves and Markets (MAM) project to integrate ecologically sound shrimp aquaculture with the mangrove environment of Cà Mau—reversing mangrove loss and reducing carbon emissions.  In alliance with shrimp importers, traders, and over 5,000 farmers, MAM provides training on breeding and marketing ecologically-certified shrimp while also supporting replanting and management of the mangrove forest and mobilizing access for shrimp farmers to certified carbon markets and carbon financing.


The MAM project, which works with 35 farmer groups, utilizes a traditional shrimp farming model that integrates the farms into the mangrove ecosystems to reduce pollution and disease.  These extensive, low-input shrimp farms have at least 50 percent mangrove cover and much lower management costs than intensive farms.  They are more sustainable for the small-scale shrimp farmers who make up the majority of total shrimp producers.


Yet, traditional shrimp farms do not have the high yields of intensive aquaculture, so access to stable and profitable markets is important for their long-term sustainability.  Organic certification offers access to better export markets, provides shrimp farmers with a premium price and strengthens small-scale shrimp aquaculture.  MAM chose Naturland to certify its organic shrimp.  Since the project’s start in 2012, MAM has trained over 1,300 shrimp farmers in organic shrimp farming practices and mangrove restoration.


With organic shrimp certification in place, MAM helped shrimp farmers negotiate a favorable purchase agreement with Minh Phu Seafood, the world’s second-largest seafood processor.  The farmers can sell their shrimp at a ten percent price premium with significant benefits.  In 2013, the net income from selected integrated mangrove-shrimp farming has increased 1.5 times, compared to traditional shrimp farming or rice-shrimp farming without mangroves.  Le Van Quang, the Managing Director of Minh Phu Seafood values the program’s contribution to the company’s corporate responsibility mandate


Information: SNV Headquarters, Dr Kuyperstraat 5, 2514 BA, The Hague, The  Netherlands (phone: +31-70-3440244, fax: +31-70-3855531, email, webpage


Source: The New Global Citizen.  SNV Integrates Shrimp Aquaculture With Mangrove Protection in Cà Mau, VietnamEmma Boles.  October 23, 2014.

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