Sorry sir, prawn’s off

The latest episode of Indian Ocean with Simon Reeves showed 2 sides of the the prawn fishing industry that has grown up to satisfy the West’s lust  for tiger prawn vindaloo (or any other jumbo shrimp dish). Whereas in India the preference seems to be for massively destructive bottom trawlers, in Bangladesh it is for prawn farms, carved out from previously productive rice and arable farms. Once flooded, the prawn farms are unable to go back to rice farming as the salt makes the land infertile. And, once converted, the prawn farms are at the mercy of the middle men and Western supermarkets who are demanding (and delivering) lower prices for prawns.

Ironically, one of the few villages that seemed to be prospering was the one that had resisted the prawn farmers and now supplied rice, fruit and even fresh water to the prawn farm villages. It’s a prawn versus prawn world out there and it presents a really difficult dilemma, as to boycott Bangladeshi prawns deprives the poor prawn farmers of their only source of income. But it could also reduce the demand for cheap prawns that  destroy the land and marine environment.

Unfortunately, it seems that the only officially sanctioned sustainable alternative seems to shrimps or prawns from North America. As none of my local supermarkets or fishmongers sell these, for the moment, the best form of sustainable fishing for me is no fishing.  Until further notice, prawns are off the menu.

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