Celebrate the Sustainability of Shrimp This Earth Day



April 22, 2021

Happy Earth Day from Wild American Shrimp!

Earth Day is an annual movement where people around the world demonstrate their support for environmental protection and the future of our planet by taking action to help nature through practices such as recycling or cleaning up litter.

The idea is for these good habits to last for more than one day and continue throughout the year. Luckily, when purchasing shrimp that are wild-caught in American waters, you can rest assured that they were caught with sustainability in mind.

What Is Sustainability?

Sustainability is when the population of a species is managed in a way that provides for today’s needs without damaging the species’ ability to reproduce so that they are available for future generations.

The U.S.’s management enforces a set of standard guidelines for fisheries that are rigorously monitored, constantly amended and above all else structured with the safety of our oceans’ wildlife and their environments in mind. These robust environmental protection guidelines are legally enforced and utilize science to best determine harvest limits so that no shrimp resource becomes depleted.

Shrimp Trawls and Sustainability

Shrimp trawls – the large nets used to catch shrimp – are designed in such a way where they lightly skim the bottom of the ocean, with a special “tickler chain” that jostles shrimp out from the ocean floor and makes them easier to catch. The nets are designed both to not damage the undersea environment and reduce bycatch – or anything caught in a shrimp net that isn’t shrimp – thanks to important inventions such as the turtle excluder device (TED) and bycatch reduction device (BRD). Both devices are key in helping keep outside animals and other objects from getting caught in shrimp trawls and their uses are required by the American shrimp industry and the National Marine Fisheries Service (part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA]).

Here’s a video breakdown of how shrimp boats work!

Shrimp Composting

Want to know how you can eat shrimp while being conscientious to the environment this Earth Day? We recommend saving your shrimp shells and tails!

Although many may not realize it, shrimp are an incredibly efficient food due to the fact that the entire shrimp can be used in the cooking process. While most people either peel their shrimp and throw away the shells and tails or buy them already peeled and deveined, shrimp shells and tails are just as usable as the rest of the shrimp.

Why? Because they can be used to make a delicious shrimp stock!

Here’s what to do. The next time you peel shrimp, take all of the shrimp shells, tails and heads and put them all into a plastic bag or container. Then, store them in a freezer. Shells from roughly one to two pounds of shrimp are needed in order to make a hearty stock, so if there are not enough from the result of one meal’s peels, simply store them over time until you have enough. Once there are at least eight cups worth of shrimp shells, you can start cooking the tasty shrimp stock below!

If you’re wondering how to make shrimp stock, check out this recipe from Epicurious — all it takes is:

  • Putting the shells in a medium saucepan
  • Adding one quart of water
  • Bringing it to a boil
  • Straining the stock
  • Discarding the shells (we’ll get back to this)
  • And adding salt and pepper to taste

That’s it! If you’re looking for a recipe with a bit more flavor, Chef Emeril Lagasse recommends adding chopped onions, carrots and cloves!

One of the best parts about shrimp stock is how long it lasts. This stock can be used immediately, refrigerated for a few days or even frozen for up to a month! It’ll maintain that delicious shrimp flavor – perfect for use in recipes like this mouthwatering Shrimp Stew – and can be eaten with the knowledge that the whole shrimp was used!

As for those discarded shells, if you’re looking for a way to dispose of them in a way that’s helpful to the planet, we recommend composting them!

For those unaware, shrimp shells make excellent compost primarily due to being composed largely of chitin (the primary component of several animals’ exoskeletons), which helps protect crops against damaging fungal diseases. If you’re into gardening and are looking for environmentally friendly ways to protect your plants, this compost made from shrimp shells will do exactly that.

Looking for a guide on how to compost shrimp shells to make your own compost? Check out this handy guide from SFGate!

To learn more about sustainability, read one of our other blog posts on how buying wild-caught U.S. shrimp supports sustainability!