Lagos — As important as shrimp is to our menu, its production is very devastating to the environment. This much has been proved in some developing countries of Asia and Latin America where ponds are used to cultivate shrimp, with all the chemicals involved, which are usually injurious to the soil.
The shrimp production methods that is employed in these developing countries, that has generated public outcry, is about to start here in Nigeria. Spearheaded by Sulalanka, a Srilankan company, Asians are making frantic efforts to start this Shrimp business in Nigeria, from all indications the South-east and South-west are the suggested locations, and this will spell disaster to the nation and soon there may be no land for conventional food cultivation as ponds would be dug, used, abandoned and new ones dug and the process will go on.
The Niger Delta environment which has been fragmented, deforested and degraded by the oil and gas exploration and production and other related industrial activities recently witnessed a greatest threat to its existence in the form of the introduction of industrial shrimp farming with presidential support from the Obasanjo.
The president ordered the ministries of Agriculture and Environment to give special encouragement to industrial shrimp farmers specially those willing to export shrimp to the United States of America.
After the first attempt was halted, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) started another attempt to start industrial shrimp farming. They also stopped on account of pressure by Non-governmental Organisations and Community Based Organisations in Nigeria.
Having failed in the Niger Delta region the Asians now prefer the South East and South West Regions of Nigeria, meaning that they would construct pounds to cultivate it. Shrimp farming is an evil that does no nation any good as in the experiences of the following countries stated below.
In the Trang province of Thailand in the fishing communities located along the Andaman Sea, their environment has been ruined beyond remediation through the cutting of the mangroves to make way for shrimp farms which makes it impossible for the fisher folks to earn their livelihood and to support their families from their polluted seas and degraded lands.
They have migrated to the cities to look for non - existing work; those that opposed them are murdered in cold blood as two people were killed in the Baliu Laemsai village by the shrimp mafia made up of foreign investors and corrupt political leaders in the corridors of power.
Mad - it Ran Wasil, the village headman of Baliu Laemsai village spoke quite openly lamenting the devastation and impoverishing of their lands.
To day in Thailand, their resources have been degraded, and loss of natural coastal resources, unsolved pollution problems has led to the despoiling of once fecund inshore bays, formerly rich fishing grounds are being impacted and vital fish breeding by Nursery habitat are being lost to the encroaching shrimp farms. In one district shrimp farmers displaced alone 4,000 rice paddy farmers.
In August 1996, the Government of Honduras declared a one year moratorium on shrimp farms which was further extended to allow a careful monitoring of water quality and other serious environmental problems that has cropped up in the Gulf of Fonseca.
The India environment has been degraded to an unprecedented degree by shrimp farming which led the Supreme Court to pass a landmark ruling calling for a moratorium on all industrial shrimp aquaculture operations. Over 100,000 acres of existing farm facilities were mandated to be dismantled by the end of March 1997 in Adrea Pradesh region 48,000 people were displaced in 3 years by shrimp farming.
Taiwan China and Vietnam
The use of Antibiotics, pesticides and hazardous chemicals has led to the spread of deadly infections viruses that has ruined once thriving Aquaculture Industries. In Taiwan it happened 1988, in china; it was in 1993, in Vietnam it was in 1995. these resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of loses and massive environmental degradation in its wake Taiwan once the world leader in farmed shrimp production has never recovered from its crash in 1988, Thailand, Ecuador and India which have all vied for first or second place in farmed shrimp production have also suffered diseased problems which have caused 50 % or more of their pond operation to be shut down, while few ponds have recuperated and put back into use, many have turned to wastelands unfit for any resource extractive purposes.
Because of the serious disease problems of shrimp farming ,its impacts on investment and degradation of the environment lading to impoverishment of rural people, the world Bank funded a study on the disease problems of Thai shrimp ponds of Thailand. This is to diagnose the widespread disease problems in the area. Surprisingly, the World Bank was simultaneously developing a loan proposal for Mexico to develop shrimp farming based on the same management models with Thailand.
The World Bank Mexico Agriculture loan has been indefinitely postponed due to many issues principal among them was the opposition by local environmental organizations and fishermen Associations- (From. Rosenberg's 1992 world shrimp farming report).
Studies are currently being conducted by a team of scientist from in the united state and the Philippines to determine whether Antibiotics used for shrimp production can create a resistance to these antibiotics in human who consume farmed shrimp, due to escalating public concern over health risks, Japan has identified over 20 antibiotics used in shrimp industry and has banned shrimp farmed with these antibiotics. Nigeria is not even aware.
More than 4500ha of productive mangrove land have been converted into artificial shrimp farms in Sri - lanka, due to this in human activity more than 8000 fisher folk families lost their lagoon fishery.
In pambala, Kakkapalliya and chilaw their land and seas have been degraded leading to migration to the cities. They are rendered so poor by shrimp farming that the small fishers' federation of Sri - Lanka in collaboration with other international NGOs is currently supporting this water supply for them and also to assist them to have other alternative means of livelihoods this can be confirmed from the small fishers' federation.
The Swedish international Development Agency (SIDA) has described shrimp farming as a threat to the environment.
The Malaysian cabinet passed a ruling that shrimp farms should not be situated in the Mangrove because of its polluting nature vis-à-vis the fragile nature of the Mangroves.
In the United Kingdom, the forest peoples programmed denounced shrimp farming during its meeting in London from 17th to 20th may 2000.
The Cambodian Government came up with a conclusion last year that shrimp farming failed because of its environmental pollution.
Industrial Shrimp Action Network (ISA NET)
The industrial shrimp Action Net Work (ISA NET) working to address the negative social and environmental impacts of shrimp aquaculture in 25 producing and consuming countries of industrially farmed organized a tour of delegations from 7countries namely: U.S, CANADA, SWEDEN, UNITED KINGDOM,MALAYSIA,PHILIPINES and THAILAND to shrimp farms to see its harmful impacts, and after the tour, the more than 200paricpants who attended a workshop on 'Socio - economic and environment impacts of industries Shrimp cultivation came up with the following findings /report.
Potential Harm from Shrimp Farming
Human Rights abuses including murder, rape, false arrests.
Loss of livelihood.
Lack of food security and malnutrition.
Displacement of woman from their traditional livelihoods.
Violence against woman.
Destruction of social and cultural fabric of village society.
Migration to already over crowed cities.
Children dropping out of schools to catch shrimp fries.
Loss of biodiversity.
Significant decline in fish resources, the main protein of villagers. Decline in the resources such as livestock, poultry, fuel and fodder. Crisis of drinking water due to salination.
Pollution problems due to the harmful used which destroys livelihood.
Investment from profits earned are not reinvested in the local economy Gross inequality on who received the benefits from those who suffer the consequences.
We have mentioned the reasons why these countries are rejecting shrimp farming is the same reason why we the people of Nigeria (Niger Delta, South East and South West) should reject same. As the introduction of shrimp farming in Nigeria would lead to the total annihilation of our people who have not recovered from the on - going degradation of the physical and human environment.
The Niger Delta is in for another exploitation as the overall set - up processes and operations of Industrial shrimp agriculture are tremendously disruptive to the delicate and complex balance of coastal ecology as vast stretches of invaluable mangrove forest in Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Lagos and Ondo states would be cleared to make way for shrimp ponds/ shrimp farms would replace a diverse, multiple resource Nigeria environment with large scale mono - culture operations.
Globally, hundreds of thousands of hectares of valuable mangrove forest has been destroyed by shrimp farming alone and this is only in the last two decades alone, other important coastal habitats of the Niger Delta such as mud flats, sea grass beds and coral reefs would be ruined as it has happened to other nations running away from it and that of South East/South West would also be ruined. Also our once productive farm land which has been degraded by the oil / gas companies would be further left fallow and important water ways and underground aquifers would be further dangerously contaminated as the shrimp industry has been appropriately labelled as slash and burn enterprise which is expanding because of political corruption and collision between government regulatory officials and the richer industry investors who were often referred to as influential people.
Specific Problems with Shrimp Farming
One tragic irony of Industrial shrimp aquaculture is that the process requires clean water yet it has become a source of severe water pollution, often times fouling its own nest in its bid for ever higher shrimp production, the often unrestricted use of chemicals inputs such as antibiotics, pesticides and water additives, when combined with the blind up on the pond bottoms of unused feeds and feces has led to epidemic shrimp diseases and many early pond closures of toxic effluents.
Some of the antibiotics used in shrimp agriculture are closely related to those used in human medical treatment and the questions remains as to the development of resistant strains of human pathogens showing that farming poses real danger of genetic contamination and lowering of biodiversity.
Accidental release of farm raised shrimp or fish can have tremendous repercussions on the native species which may come in contact with them , competition for territory, genetic drift, disease spread and excess demand on available resources are the problems today for example Norway where the number of escaped farming salmon exceeds the total into Norwegian waters.
Food Production Problems
Shrimp aquaculture also affects essential food production processes both agriculture and fisheries are adversely affected. Salination and pollution of both land water ways by shrimp farms ruins both fisheries and crop production in some area, severe rice production losses have caused local agriculture economies to begin importation of what was once the region staple food crop.
Huge Capital needed
Who is being employed and for how long is a crucial question, initial studies conducted in Philippines and India show that much of the local people employment generated by shrimp farms is temporary, requiring high labour inputs only to construct the ponds after initial facility development is completed, the shrimp agriculture Industry is capital incentive rather than labour intensive so on employment problem would be solved by it for example an intensive shrimp agriculture business in India employs just 5 workers while a rice paddy business of equal size requires 50 workers yet in spite of its low local employment needs, shrimp aquaculture is being promoted in developing nations which have abundance of labour and shortage of capital therefore all the profits at the at the expense of the environment would be repatriated abroad.
Indiscriminate Land Use
Our lands would be converted to artificial lakes, which would be abandoned for the construction of Net Lakes / farm without restoration which would lead to the littering of the environment with disused lakes.
Why world powers support shrimp farming
Shrimp Agriculture has become a global industry that has an annual farm gate value of over $6 billion dollars and an annual retail value of over $20 billion dollars and because of this ,shrimp farming gets generous support and incentives from international leading institutes including the word Bank , Asian Development bank and inter - American development Bank because of its profitable nature to consumers nations and lending agencies, the same willingness by the same group to lend money for oil/gas exploration/production activities without minding its cost in the Niger Delta.
Our stand on this issue is that Industrial Shrimp farming in the country as a whole should be discouraged in spite of the Multi-million dollars it is likely to attract for the country. Our environment and our future generations should be considered, as the present happenings in the world, the Tsunamis and Katherinas should inform our decisions.
- Akie Hart and Evang. I. H. Pepple are the Chairman and Secretary of the Nigeria shrimp working group (the shrimp working group is a broad based civil society coalition to tackle industrial shrimp aquaculture in Nigeria).