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Aug 22, 2008 03:28 PM

Is farmed shrimp from Mexico okay?

I understand the problems associated with farmed shrimp from much of Asia, but I'm wondering about quality and sustainability of farm-raised Mexican shrimp. Does it have the same problems of pollution, mangroves, disease, etc? I took a look at the recommendations, and still am uncertain.

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  1. Short answer: Avoid.

    Long answer: According to Seafood Watch, we should avoid both imported farmed and imported wild caught shrimp (which includes Mexico.) If you look at the support documentation (under "scientific reports about our ratings") they include this paragraph specifcally relating to Mexico:

    "Mexico: Mexico’s shrimp farming industry, once based on the simplest technology of unlined ponds in coastal areas, has been hard-hit by disease and by the worldwide glut of inexpensive shrimp from Asia [Reyna, 2004; Zendejas-Hernandez, 2004]. Mexico exports most of its shrimp production, both farmed and wild, to the United States [Gutierrez and Zendejas, 2004]. Recently, farmed production surpassed wild-caught production, due in part to the fact that the increasing cost of boat fuel has encouraged shrimp fishermen to get out of the business [Gutierrez and Zendejas, 2004]. Much of Mexican shrimp aquaculture has developed in the northwestern states of Sinaloa and Sonora [Reyna, 2004; Gutierrez and Zendejas, 2004]. In North Sonora, the most productive region, all farms are semi-intensive [Gutierrez and Zendejas, 2004]. There is increased interest in farming practices that minimize the chance of disease outbreaks; these include the use of disease-free captive-bred postlarvae, development of a disease-testing infrastructure, and treatment of outbreaks with antibiotics [Reyna, 2004]. A few coastal farms are now using mangrove forests as natural biofilters for shrimp farm effluent. The shrimp ponds are constructed behind (inland from) the mangrove belt, which processes nutrients and sediments released from the ponds [Lassen, 2004]."

    The report does include the caveat that there are a few shrimp farms in Mexico that are actually more sustainable and environmentally friendly than their US counterparts. Unfortunately, with the current US importing and labeling laws, it is impossible to trace the shrimp back to their farm of origin, and therefore, no way of knowing if you're getting good ones or bad ones.

    6 Replies
    1. re: bex109

      Thanks, Bex. You know, 2004 was four years ago. I've heard some good things about Gulf of Mexico shrimp, but that was from the POV of US producers. Still, I guess I was under the assumption that what is coming out of Mexico is better than what's being produced in Asia. Any other suggestions of where I can look to get a more up-to-date answer? Not that I don't love the folks, 'cause I do.

      1. re: fullbelly

        I believe that Mexico and South American shrimp are superior to Asian (unless you like black tiger). At least that seems to be what the chefs are requesting lately.

        1. re: fullbelly

          Seafood Watch is updated regularly

          you will note that their latest cards have removed wild caught salmon from the West Coast Seafood Guide, becuase the fishery has been closed for 2008 (as one example).

          1. re: fullbelly

            I think the bulk of Mexican shrimp are from the Sea of Cortez, and Pacific Ocean particularly around Mazatlan... one of the world's great Shrimp Capitals.

            Are Mexican shrimp safe & sustainable?

            Unfortunately Wild Caught involves Ocean Floor Trolling which is NOT sustainable... but I think this true of the vast majority of Wild Caught on the market.

            With regards to safety... Mexicans have been eating raw shrimp for thousands of years... and raw shrimp dishes (such as Camarones en Agua Chile) are more popular than ever. I have not heard of ANY disease outbreaks related to Mexican shrimp... I myself have enjoyed these dishes myself.

            I personally have not learned of any other culture that eats shrimp raw... at least not in the same quantities as in Sinaloa... so I believe Mexican shrimp are historically of the highest, safest quality anywhere.

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              Hi Eat,

              Thanks for that. My question really is regarding farmed Mexican shrimp. I just was trying to figure out if the shrimp ponds are the toxic chemical pits that are found in Asia. I ended up passing on the bag of frozen Mexican farmed shrimp at my grocer because I just couldn't be sure, and even the price was not telling. It wasn't super expensive, but wasn't suspiciously cheap either.

              As for eating them raw, I'm not sure I'd go that far. Certainly if it was cured in lime juice for awhile (ceviche style), but flat out raw? I'd probably pass, given these shrimp were in a frozen bag in New England.

            2. re: fullbelly

              For me, the most salient issue was the lack of transparency...since there's no way of knowing if the shrimp came from a good farm or a bad farm, I skip it all together. But I will agree that Mexico farmed shrimp is most likely better than Asian.

              As far as I know, Seafood Watch is the most up-to-date source of information of this sort. Unfortunately, very few organizations are willing to put up millions of dollars annually to fund this kind of research and monitoring. We're pretty lucky that the Packard Foundation is so invested in marine science and sustainability! They really do fund some neat stuff, like Seafood Watch and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

            1. re: jfood

              There is no need to when I can buy wild Ga shrimp at the dock for $5-$7/lb.

            2. I loathe farm raised shrimp from anywhere; so flaccid and tasteless, raised in fecal soup. The majestic wild pink shrimp from Key West, Veracruz, and Venezuela, are well worth the $5/lb premium over farmed shrimp, ... when you can find them. The wild shrimp industry is struggling to cross a critical razor's edge. Sad.

              1. I live in Mexico City and I eat and have eaten mexican shrimp all of my live. If it's been wild caught or farm raised, that I wouldn't know but what I do know is that it's excellent. You just need to check that it's fresh... So the frozen product should be fresh- or frozen while it was- and perfect to eat.

                Now, about the raw shrimp, I just had it a short while ago at a Sinaloa-style seafood restaurant. Not my thing!

                1. I just checked Sea Food Watch and agree with you that their blurb is iffy... The way I shop for such products is that I stock up when I find a good deal on a brand/bag that "boasts" of the safety or sustainability it adheres to. Or, I buy it from a trusted fishmonger. I would also recommend you look into getting shrimp from the Whole Foods counter. I live in the DC area and they have very competitive prices. The plus is that they scrutinize their sources much more than say, Harris Teeter or Safeway (even though they all just recently failed the sustainability test, at least WF was not the worst offender).

                  I think its great that you are taking a moment to research the product you were about to buy! I've also been trying to make sure that the things I buy are not creating havoc somewhere else in the world, and the shrimp farm industry is a huge offender!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: AnneBird

                    Jfood hates to burst your bubble but WF is not the perfect storm of food.


                    1. re: jfood

                      I know! No bubble to be burst-I know that WF is nowehere near perfect, but I also know its not the worst. These days though... can you really trust the source? Its a leap of faith with almost everyone!