Industrial Shrimp Action Network (ISA Net)


For immediate release October 24, 1997

Global Group Formed to Counter Destructive Industrial Shrimp Farming

Representatives of major environmental and community organizations from 14 nations agreed last week to create an umbrella group to oppose the continued expansion worldwide of destructive industrial shrimp farming. The new group – formed on World Food Day, October 16th – is called the Industrial Shrimp Action Network or ISA Net.

The environmental and community organizations were meeting at a strategy planning forum in Santa Barbara, California, and were joined by concerned scientists and experts. Attached are the mission statement for the new network and a list of the groups represented at the Santa Barbara forum.

In just the last fifteen years, shrimp aquaculture has been transformed from the traditional endeavor of peasant farmers in China and Southeast Asia into a US$6 billion global business. The shift to more intensive systems first occurred in Taiwan, but its industry soon collapsed due to disease. Today industrial shrimp aquaculture has spread to 50 countries.

Recently, experts, activists, and journalists have begun to document the serious environmental and social problems associated with industrial shrimp farming. In a number of countries, major grassroot movements have emerged to challenge the industry. Shrimp farms have destroyed a million hectares of critical coastal wetlands -- including mangrove forests -- worldwide, disrupted and displaced traditional fishing communities, and contaminated freshwater supplies. As a result, there has been social conflict, human rights abuses, and violence. In Bangladesh, for example, around 100 people have been killed in clashes over industrial shrimp farming.

The industrial shrimp farms continue to be plagued by disease, due to overcrowding and poor water quality. Scientists have raised new concerns that these viruses might spread to wild stocks and the new varieties of specially farm-bred shrimp might be genetically susceptible to these viral diseases.

A principal objective of ISA Net will be to support the efforts of coastal communities that are resisting the introduction or expansion of industrial shrimp farming. At the Santa Barbara meeting, there were presentations and discussions on the current "hotspots" in the global controversy. In India, the struggle has gone all the way to the Supreme Court, which in December 1996 outlawed commercial shrimp farms in the coastal zone. In Honduras, fishing villages on the Gulf of Fonseca have mobilized to persuade the Government to enact a moratorium on construction of new shrimp farms . In Ecuador, community activists in Esmeraldas Province were jailed for resisting the illegal cutting of mangroves for a shrimp farm. In Tanzania, plans to establish the first massive shrimp operation in Africa -- a ten thousand hectare farm on the Rufiji Delta -- are generating heated debate.

The expansion of industrial shrimp farming has been driven by soaring demand for shrimp in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Europe. Accounting for 30% of the world’s shrimp production, aquaculture is hailed by industry as a way of taking pressure off wild shrimp stocks. The global catch of wild shrimp peaked in 1993. Shrimp trawling is considered to be one of the world’s most wasteful and harmful fishing practices.

The Santa Barbara conference created a Steering Committee for ISA Net consisting of the following members:

David Barnhizer, Senior Fellow, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Alfredo Quarto, Co-Director, Mangrove Action Project (MAP)
Mauricio Farhan Ferrari, Forest Peoples Programme, U.K.
Michael Hagler, Greenpeace International
Jacob Raj, Director, PREPARE, India
Meenakshi Raman, Attorney, Consumers’ Association of Penang, Malaysia
Jorge Varela, Director, CODDEFFAGOLF, Honduras

The Steering Committee will be responsible for the administration and further development of ISA Net. They will be seeking the participation in the network of a number of other active organizations and individuals.

The Santa Barbara meeting also established and drafted plans of action for ISA Net Working Groups, as follows:

Communities Facilitator: Alfredo Quarto, MAP

An initial objective is to establish improved electronic communications with key communities and environmental groups in developing countries.

Public Education Facilitator: Angela Rickman, Sierra Club of Canada

This group will coordinate a substantially increased effort by organizations to inform consumers in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Japan about the true environmental and social costs of eating shrimp.

Science and Industry Facilitator: Becky Goldburg, Environmental Defense Fund

Consulting with outside experts and communities, this group will develop a set of technical standards for sustainable shrimp aquaculture.

International Institutions and National Governments Facilitator: Jacob Scherr, NRDC

This group will help the Network groups to monitor, assess, and advocate for improvements in the policies and programs of international agencies. The first such opportunity is the December 1997 FAO Technical Consultation on Shrimp in Bangkok, Thailand. In regard to national governments, ISA Net groups will continue to provide information and analysis to the Shrimp Tribunal regarding the implementation of existing laws and regulations on shrimp farming.

The Santa Barbara meeting participants agreed that it would be important to gather together within a year, preferably in Ecuador. The Steering Group was asked to work with Ecuadorian organizations to determine the feasibility of holding the next meeting of ISA Net there.

Kate Cissna, former MAP Co-Director, organized the Santa Barbara Forum. Isabel de la Torre will serve as staff of the interim Secretariat for ISA Net. It will be housed at MAP offices at 4649 Sunnyside Ave N., #321, Seattle, Washington 98103; telephone - (+1 206)545-1137; fax - (+1 206)545-4498; email

Industrial Shrimp Action Network (ISA Net)


We are a global network of organizations and individuals, representing community, environmental, and scientific concerns. We are opposed to the expansion of destructive industrial shrimp farming with such consequences as impoverishment and displacement of local communities, degradation of mangrove forests and other coastal and inland ecosystems, loss of agricultural land, pollution, and the loss of cultural and biological diversity.

We have joined together:

    to recognize, support, and empower communities threatened by shrimp farming to enable them to control the use and management of coastal resources to meet their food, livelihood, cultural, and other basic needs;

    to educate consumers about the social, economic, and environmental costs of shrimp production so that they can make informed decisions about purchasing and eating shrimp;

    to resist destructive industrial shrimp production practices and policies and encourage the adoption of ecologically responsible and socially equitable alternatives by industry, local communities, national governments, and international institutions; and

    to identify and encourage better coastal resource management and support the restoration of ecosystems degraded by industrial shrimp farming.

Adopted at the NGO Planning Forum on Shrimp Aquaculture, Santa Barbara, California, October 17, 1997

NGO Planning Forum on Shrimp Aquaculture Santa Barbara, California October 14-17, 1997

Participating Organizations

Alter Trade Japan
Consumer’s Association of Penang, Malaysia
Environmental Defense Fund, USA
Forest Peoples Programme, UK
Fundacion Cimas del Ecuador
Greenpeace Guatemala
Greenpeace International
Mangrove Action Project, USA
Natural Resources Defense Council, USA
Organizacion de Comunidades Negras de Colombia
Sea Turtle Restoration Project, USA
Sierra Club of Canada
World Wildlife Fund
World Wildlife Fund - Hong Kong
Yadfon Association, Thailand

Please note that not all of these groups have agreed to join ISA Net or to endorse its mission statement and plans of action.

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