Selva Shrimp: Realizing the True Potential of Blue Foods by Restoring Mangroves in Intertidal Zones Across Asia  

Battered and fried, tossed in mayonnaise, cooked in sauce or served chilled — around the world, people consume shrimp with aplomb. We now eat more seafood than at any other point in history, and shrimp — along with high-value seafood and fish like seabass and salmon — are some of the most in-demand products. But this current trend in aquaculture creates plenty of problems. In 2020, 5.6 million tons of globally farmed shrimp consumed 8.4 million tons of high protein feed, creating an annual carbon footprint of 40 million tons of CO2. That means that 8.4 million tons of feed was required to produce 3.36 million tons of edible protein. This unsustainable use of high energy feedstuffs in intensive aquaculture is fueling global warming, and increases risk of disease, eutrophication, loss of biodiversity, and degradation of habitats and soil, further overshooting the planetary boundaries.

SELVA SHRIMP demonstrates the true potential of blue food and promotes growing aquatic species without feed, fertilizers, or chemicals — creating nature-based and community-inclusive food harvesting systems within the planetary boundaries. Being a private-sector initiative which uses value chain promotion and community empowerment, SELVA SHRIMP incentivizes mangrove restoration by local smallholder communities in Southeast Asia. The program works with farmers, local authorities, conservation NGOs, and seafood processors to promote regenerative, nature-based raising of shrimp and other low trophic aquatic species in combination with restoration and conservation of mangroves. Shrimp, crab, mollusks, and filter feeding fish are raised by smallholder farmers in intertidal zones where they convert solar energy into healthy, high-quality proteins. Harvested organic seafood creates a stable, low-risk and high value revenue stream for coastal communities and incentivizes continuous restoration of mangroves at large scale.

Since its initiation in 2008, SELVA SHRIMP has been working around three main pillars: Firstly, the program entails specific standards for farm level improvements and mangrove restoration for farmers; secondly, SELVA SHRIMP addresses chain of custody and traceability along the entire supply chain; and thirdly, the initiative undertakes third party certification by organic aquaculture standards. The direct anchoring of Selva Shrimp’s conservation component into local and global seafood value chains creates a co-management framework to transition degraded intertidal seafood farming zones into regenerative, nature-positive blue food harvesting systems. According to the initiative, restoring mangroves and promoting better aquaculture practices results in increased yields and more consistent revenues for farmers.

Photo by Selva Shrimp

Today, the organization claims to be the largest organic aquaculture program worldwide, with 4,500 farmers participating in Vietnam and Indonesia, encompassing a surface of more than 20,000 ha in its verification program, with 13,500 ha of mangroves successfully restored by farmers and local authorities. After 15 years of experience and proof of concept, the program believes that it now has a blueprint for creating a network of restorative blue food mangrove clusters across Asia, with the potential to convert more than 250,000 ha of degraded intertidal zones into thriving, nature-based blue food harvesting systems — possibly able to sequester 14-15 million tons of carbon and harvest a surplus of 100,000 tons of high quality seafood, while contributing to mitigating climate change, fostering biodiversity, and supplying nutritious food to local and global consumer markets.

SELVA SHRIMP has already been making significant strides in the communities they work with in Southern Vietnam and Eastern Kalimantan. According to the initiative, to date, the participating farmers are harvesting 8,500 tons of climate-smart seafood and realize a direct income of $60 million at very low investment risk, as there are no farming inputs required. There are also benefits for the consumer: Naturally produced, organic seafood does not contain residues and contaminants, as there are no external inputs, additives or chemicals applied. And at the same time, the health of participating farmers and families is safeguarded as they are not exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals and pesticides. Lower trophic seafood species such as shrimp, crab, and bivalve mollusks will have an important role to play in our future food basket. What we need to establish now are more environmentally friendly, climate-smart and socially-inclusive seafood harvesting systems, and SELVA SHRIMP leads the way.

Learn more about SELVA SHRIMP.

Nominate yourself or someone else, it takes three minutes and could change the world!