Tiny shrimp leave giant carbon footprint

2012-02-18 14:25

Vancouver - Measured by environmental impact, a humble shrimp cocktail could be the most costly part of a typical restaurant meal, scientists said on Friday.

If the seafood is produced on a typical Asian fish farm, a 100g serving "has an ecosystem carbon footprint of an astounding 198kg of CO2," biologist J Boone Kauffman said.

A  454g bag of frozen shrimp produces one ton of carbon dioxide, said Kauffman, who is based at Oregon State University and conducts research in Indonesia.

He told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that he developed the comparison to help the public understand the environmental impact of land use decisions.

Kauffman said 50% to 60% of shrimp farms are located in tidal zones in Asian countries, mostly on cleared mangrove forests.

"The carbon footprint of the shrimp from this land use is about 10-fold greater than the land use carbon footprint of an equivalent amount of beef produced from a pasture formed from a tropical rainforest," wrote Kauffman in a paper released to AFP, not including emissions from farm development, feeds, supplements, processing, storing and shipping.

The farms are inefficient, producing just 1kg of shrimp for 13.4m² of mangrove, while the ponds created are abandoned in just three to nine years because disease, soil acidification and contamination destroy them, he wrote.

After abandonment, the soil takes 35 to 40 years to recover, he said.

Emily Pidgeon of Conservation International said intact mangrove forests are of value in protecting the coastal ecosystems and communities against storms and tsunamis, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 that killed some 230 000 people.

The problem, she said, is the value of intact mangroves is hard to measure, and most of the shrimp farms are in impoverished areas that cannot easily afford conservation.

"It's difficult to find the financing to do it, or the political will," she said, adding Kauffman's carbon measurements provide another argument in favour of protection.

The catchy shrimp cocktail estimate is part of the relatively new field in science and economics called ecosystem services, which uses models to measure the value to human communities, in economic terms, of forests, grassland, waterways and even the air.

"To present how deforestation and land cover change contribute to global climate change in a comprehensible manner, we change the scale of greenhouse gas emissions from global to personal scales," wrote Kauffman.

  • Glyn - 2012-02-18 18:09

    What is the carbon footprint of black painted cars versus white painted cars?

  • Robin - 2012-02-18 18:38

    So why all the carbon hype? Without carbon, in all its forms, we would not exist so stop this senseless blabbering about carbon footprints - it's a meaningless modern catch phrase.

      Glyn - 2012-02-18 19:48

      @Robin - Your logic is missing. Read a book "The Weather Makers", a bit out of dat by now but it will show you the problem with carbon. It is published by Penguin and written by Tim Flannery. It is easy to read, about your level.

      Robin - 2012-02-18 21:25

      @ Glyn: I'm amazed - you know what books are about my level? I know Tim Flannery pretty well and guess where he gets his funding? Why don't you try the likes of: Nigel Lawson. "An Appeal to Reason: a cool look at global warming"; Christopher Essex and Ross McKintrick. “Taken by Storm: the troubled science, policy and politics of global warming.”; Roy W. Spencer. “Climate Confusion: how global warming hysteria leads to bad science, pandering politicians and misguided policies that hurt the poor.”; Lawrence Solomon. “The Deniers: the world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud.”; S. Fred Singer & Dennis T. Avery. “Unstoppable Global Warming: every 1500 years.”; Christopher Booker. "The Real Global Warming Disaster: is the obsession with 'climate change' turning out to be the most costly scientific blunder in history?"; John Etherington. "The Wind Farm Scam"; Continued .....

      Robin - 2012-02-18 21:26

      @ Glyn continued ..... A.W. Montford. "The Hockey Stick Illusion: climategate and the corruption of science".; Ian Wishart. "Air Con: the seriously inconvenient truth about global warming"; Robert M. Carter. "Climate: the counter consensus"; Christian Gerondeau. "Climate: the great delusion"; Bjorn Lomborg. "Cool It: the skeptical environmentalist's guide to global warming"; Brian Sussman, "Climategate: a veteran meteorologist exposes the global warming scam"; Patrick J. Michaels & Robert C. Balling Jr. "Climate of Extremes: global warming science they don't want you to know"; Roy W. Spencer. "The Great Global Warming Blunder: how mother nature fooled the world's top climate scientists", and there are many more books and published papers out there that will tell you that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and about the importance of carbon in our lives.

      arne.verhoef - 2012-02-19 18:26

      Dear Sir. One of those bitter old cynics I see. Yes, we need carbon, even CO2, but not the amount of CO2 currently being pumped into the air. Your statement is like saying we need fats, in all their forms. Yes, but in moderation, and not all of them are good. On a side note, I would like to apologise that your generation screwed up our generation, and its future, but there is no use denying the faults of industrialisation.

      Robin - 2012-02-19 19:00

      @Arne; Don't confuse cynicism with realism; belief with fact! If you want to be one of the many thousands who believe in AGW and suckered into donating your hard-earned income to the Church of Gore, you go ahead. No worries on my part! And BTW when you make comparisons do please compare apples with apples and pairs with pairs. OK?

  • Vince.York - 2012-02-18 20:54

    Tons of shrimps doesn't come anywhere NEAR the blue light convoys' (& contents) carbon footprint of death dodging dangerously from floozy place to another murkier political place in SA at the moment. :)

  • Robin - 2012-02-19 08:54

    @Mark: He he! Why waste time and effort with a BB gun when a .45 Magnum will do it quicker and slicker? Guilty - none of those books and the others I have are available on line :-(. But, on a point of pedantic(?)technicality. None of the Maldive islands, nor those of Tuvalu or Kiribiti for that matter, have sunk or are about to sink. In fact most of the Maldives have actually 'risen' during the past 20-odd years! See the many papers by Nils Axel Morner and here at

      Helen - 2012-02-19 13:21

      I simply have to ask; Robin, don't you have a life? Fancy being au fait with so many trendy books. Don't get sucked in by modern hype. Man simply wants to trade and will stop at nothing whatsoever.

      Robin - 2012-02-19 17:06

      @Helen: LOL! Have a life???? With all the things I do every day I wish there were 48 hours of daylight every day - so much to do, so little time and the "Grim Reaper" hovers just over the horizon! I'm the ultimate sceptic to boot! Allow me to alter your final words please - SOME men will stop at nothing!!!

  • Daniel Van Wyk - 2012-02-19 09:26

    You worry about a shrimps carbon footprint? Why don't you worry about all your V8's carbon footprints? Or your Pacific Navy's footprints? NO NO NO, let's blame the shrimps!!!! Hahaha, what a joke!

  • ludlowdj - 2012-02-20 09:45

    The entire carbon footprint debate is a lie anyway, As soon as a government starts talking about killing of animals because their "farts" generate to much carbon or that small shellfish are a threat one need to pull back and look at the entire debate with new eyes, and the bottom line is people are being conned to pay out millions extra for "climate change" taxes that have no basis in reality are are for all intents and purposes simply government run ponsie schemes.

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