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.
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.
Changes in land use that disrupt ecosystems, such as mangrove deforestation, currently account for up to 20 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, which is second only to fossil fuel combustion. Removing mangroves releases the carbon stored in the trees and the excavation of the soil to create shrimp aquaculture ponds releases the carbon in the soil in the atmosphere. The global greenhouse gas emissions from the conversion of mangroves worldwide have been estimated as equivalent to the annual fossil fuel emissions of the United Kingdom.
Integrating Mangroves with Sustainable Shrimp Markets
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 and co-implementer IUCN have 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, supports replanting and management of the mangrove forest, and mobilize access for shrimp farmers to certified carbon markets and carbon financing.
Read the full story at The New Global Citizen.