Gulf of California

Mexico – Day 3
by -- March 23rd, 2011

‘When you go to buy Shrimp Ceviche in Mexico, there’s a 90% chance it came from a shrimp farm’

Sustainable seafood is a wonderfully easy topic to debate when you have contrast; bad practices vs. good practices. With eyes closed, you can basically formulate the bad ones in your head- stereotypes of destructive fishing gear, seafood products that are shipped many oceans away, and local communities marginalized by transnational seafood organizations.  Of course the good practices may be a bit more romanticized; stoic fishers cruising through the waves, landing beautifully large fish with hook and line, with comprehensive market transparency in getting the fish to the consumer’s plate. But the reality of seafood production tends to fall somewhere in between, and we found an interesting example of it today at the Granja Borbolla shrimp farm.

Shrimp farming

Shrimp Farming (image)

Located in the Sonora desert between Hermsillo and Kino Bahia, Granja Borbolla is 8 miles from the coast and linked to it by an incredible earthern channel. Through a mix of enginuity, intensive labor, and gravity, sea water is pumped from the coastal waters for operational use by Granja Borbolla. At the farm site, huge tracks land have been converted to shrimp holding pools, where they are feed and grown until ready for processing. But the managers at the shrimp farm are currently undertaking an ambitious experiment; grow the shrimp faster, and bigger. One of the managers, Hector, explained that the impetus for the experiment comes from pressure to capitalize on down periods in the wild-caught fishing season in mid-september. Slated to start the process of making bigger shrimp within the next month, Hector emphasised how fragile the business model is to the pertubations of power outages, disease, and oxygen depletion. If any of these hit a dangerous threshold, the experiment may fail and tremendous capital may be lost in an effort to supply the domestic market.

Xavier speaking with managers at Granja Borbolla

Aquaculture facilities in Mexico continue to propogate, and like the industry on an international level, largely lacks acknowledgement by consumers. In Mexico and the United States, seafood from aquaculture production continues to contribute to seafood consumed in restaurants and sold in stores. While the scene at Granja Borbolla on first glance is jarring- aquaculture production in the desert, centered around a 4 month production window- many elements of the business make sense. Considerations are made to ensure successful production and minimize environmental harm. But as the current and potential future trajetory of shrimp production, this form of aquaculture leaves many questions to be answered. Most importantly may be these two; is sustainable seafood the sustained production of seafood? Or is the term sustainable seafood to encompass both social and ecological considerations to ensure our sustained consumption of seafood?

As we nagivate our way through the remainder of this great trip, hopefully our debates will continue to probe these questions of sustainability in seafood and aquaculture.

 

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