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Executive Summary

Acetes shrimps are among the most — if not the most — utilized species for food globally. Harvested from the coastal regions of Asian countries, these shrimps are not only cooked into various dishes but also crucial in the production of shrimp paste: a salty, tangy condiment served in many Southeast Asian dishes.

 

Despite the enormous scale of production, there's scarce information about the shrimp paste industry and its impact on Acetes shrimp welfare. Thus, it is crucial to explore and understand the industry to identify and implement welfare interventions effectively. This report discusses an overview of the shrimp paste industry and highlights welfare issues and challenges to determine opportunities for welfare interventions. We take Vietnam, one of the largest producers, as a case study to gain a deeper understanding of the industry.

 

Shrimp paste is an integral condiment for Southeast Asian cuisine, valued for its unique umami flavor and nutritional properties, including vital omega-3 fatty acids. The production process primarily involves sun-drying, grinding, and fermenting Acetes shrimps, which varies in duration and technique across countries. While deeply rooted in cultural heritage and social practices, shrimp paste is also a significant commercial product, with villages selling locally and countries like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia importing from top-producing countries like Thailand and Indonesia.

 

The industry provides livelihood opportunities for small coastal communities, where activities are divided among families with roles in catching, trading, and processing. Manufacturing facilities with capital, usually located near coasts, employ manual labor to mix, ferment, and cook the shrimp paste before packaging it for commercial sale.

All producers face significant issues in raw material supply due to their reliance on natural shrimp stocks. These stocks are subject to fluctuations and environmental threats. Moreover, there are additional challenges related to food wastage, as well as food hygiene and safety concerns in both traditional and commercial production methods.

 

Acetes shrimps are likely to endure significant suffering throughout the capture, retrieval, and processing stages in shrimp paste production. They experience injury, exhaustion, and suffocation during capture, often dying from hypoxia due to overcrowding or suffocation when removed from water. Additionally, during processing, they could suffer from osmotic shock, dehydration, and stress due to salting, grinding, and sun-drying, which are methods used to prepare them for paste production.

 

Our Vietnam case study explores the fishing practices, the economic and cultural importance of shrimp paste, and the operational dynamics and challenges of small communities and large companies involved in the industry.

 

We propose interventions to alleviate the suffering of Acetes shrimps, such as gentler capture methods and humane slaughter practices. Developing vegan versions could be promising to reduce reliance on wild-caught Acetes shrimps. Innovations to address challenges in market accessibility, cost, and achieving the desired gastronomic qualities are important to the success of any potential alternative.

 

This scoping study provides foundational information on the suffering of Acetes shrimps harvested for the shrimp paste industry. Further research on Acetes shrimp sentience, the shrimp paste industry, and customers is needed to develop specific and effective solutions.

Please click the link below to access the full report:

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