Venezuela’s shrimp farms push for sustainability against hardship and oil spills

Most of Venezuela’s shrimp farms sit on the eastern shore of Lake Maracaibo, a brackish lagoon covering an area larger than the island of Sicily in the country’s northwest. This region is also Venezuela’s oil-production hub, and throughout the years, hundreds of oil spills have polluted the waters near the farms and damaged marine ecosystems that host native species of crustaceans. Yet despite this, Venezuela’s shrimp industry has grown exponentially in the last 25 years.   The sector, which exports about 95% of its production, has managed to tackle environmental threats from a deteriorating oil infrastructure and economic difficulties by switching its practices. But while recognized abroad for their progress, shrimp farmers still face hurdles at home. Shrimp farming in Venezuela reportedly began in 1972, with the first experiments in the cultivation of native species of white shrimp (Litopenaeus schmitti) and pink shrimp (Litopenaeus brasiliensis), followed by the first imports in 1986 of immature Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) from Texas, and the first spawning the following year. This was the first step by the Venezuelan government to initiate commercial shrimp farming in the country. During the 1990s, production grew rapidly due to several political, economic and environmental factors: government facilities to obtain production permits, domestication of imported shrimp species, absence of viral diseases, increased investment, and attractive conditions for imports. By 1995, seven farms and one independent larviculture laboratory were operating; four of the farms and the lab were in eastern Venezuela. With the turn of the century, the…This article was originally published on Mongabay