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Dead mangroves, devastated through shrimp aquaculture.

Shrimp farming

Over the last few decades shrimp farming has been a relentless destroyer of huge expanses of tropical coastlines, particularly mangrove forests. Mangrove forest roots are bulldozed into the mud to make way for the intruding shrimp farms. The coastal equivalent of terrestrial rain forests, mangroves are home to an incredibly diverse range of life. They are breeding grounds and nurseries for many fish, shellfish and other wildlife. Shrimp farming turns them into a barren and toxic prawn cocktail.

Once the mangroves are ripped out, the coast is rendered unstable,triggering erosion, harming coral reefs and seagrass beds, andeliminating habitat for creatures from the humble molluscs up the chainof life to the meek manatee.

While there are currently no precise figures on how great the loss ofmangrove forests and other coastal wetlands is due to shrimp farms,estimates are frightening, with as high as 38 percent of mangroveforests being lost to shrimp farming.

As the wetlands vanish, fish catches decline and ecosystems are knockedout of balance. Shrimp farms are often abandoned after only three tofive years, leaving the once-fertile coastal ecosystem a wasteland. Theproprietors then move on to destroy new territory.

The ecological damage doesn't end with the mangrove loss. To grow asmany shrimp as possible and maintain overcrowded populations, largeamounts of artificial feed and chemical additives, including chlorine,are added to this destructive cocktail. Malathion, parathion, paraquatand other virulent pesticides are also sprayed on the pools.

Along with the chemicals come several kinds of antibiotics, usedheavily to prevent shrimp disease. This resulting virulent soup iscommonly dumped onto the surrounding land or into local waterways,where it harms people and other life.

Farming shrimp causes gigantic problems, even beyond the environmentalharm, it can often decimate the coastal ecology that communities dependupon.

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