Not very long ago, I was in a major Chicago suburban grocery store planning to buy some frozen shrimp. With the globalization of our food supply, I am in the habit of checking where a food item originates from in order to be “respectful” to the planet. I would prefer to avoid purchasing seafood from the other side of the world. This shopping day, I was actually unable to find any frozen shrimp other than shrimp from Thailand. I put the shrimp back, as I just had an unsettled feeling about making such a purchase. So, why am I saying don’t buy shrimp from Thailand? The beautiful exotic fishing cat seen in the photo is becoming extinct due to the shrimp farming in Thailand.
Extinction of an exotic fishing cat when you buy shrimp from Thailand
This week, tuning into the late hour US ABC Nightline news show, there was a story about a beautiful exotic cat from Southeast Asia which is becoming extinct. This wild cat, called the fishing cat, is a native to the wetland areas of Southeast Asia. These same wetland areas of Southeast Asia are also being utilized for the farming of shrimp. And, much of that shrimp ends up in the United States. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen frozen shrimp in a grocery outlet that is not from Thailand! This includes all my local Chicago area grocery store chain shopping options : Whole Foods, Jewel, Walmart, Target, Marianos, and Trader Joe’s.
According to the ABC Nightline story, the shrimp farmers take over the wetlands and encroach on the native home of the fishing cat. Now, the fishing cat population has declined to near extinction. As this exotic web-footed cat actually swims in the water for food, this encroachment by shrimp farmers has affected the natural habitat as well as the ability to access fish for food. With diminished capacity to find fish to eat, fishing cats are often forced to hunt for alternative food sources. They may resort to farmers’ livestock, which then allows them to meet their death with a shotgun.
Regardless of how you connect to this story, it points out there are multiple good reasons to purchase food locally. If purchasing shrimp raised closer to home stops extinction of a species, that means a lot to me. If it means our planet degrades less quickly, it should mean the world to you.