With the rapid growth of industrial prawn production there has been a corresponding upsurge in eco-label certification schemes that seek to improve the industry. However, meaningful human rights considerations are rarely incorporated in the formulation of these schemes. The Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) continues to work with coastal community networks to raise awareness of the problems of industrial aquaculture and to push for meaningful human rights considerations in the development of future eco-labelling schemes.
Industrial shrimp aquaculture has been widely attributed to a host of serious problems, including the destruction of community-owned mangrove forests and wetlands, the undermining of food security, land grabbing, labour abuses and even murder. Shrimps fed on genetically modified soya from the deforested plains of Latin America and the degraded anchovy ecosystems of Peru, are air-freighted and shipped around the world in freezer compartments to our plates - tropical shrimp production is perhaps the least sustainable mass-produced protein on the planet. Not that you would know that from the supermarket aisles however: words like 'responsible', 'community-friendly' and 'co-operative' adorn supermarket packaging, all too often made with the explicit endorsements of weak, industry-dominated eco-labels.
Set against this urgent backdrop, FPP has begun to support the efforts of coastal community networks who are strongly opposed to the industrial production of prawns for export. Working in conjunction with Nijera Kori, FPP helped to organise a conference which took place in February, 2010, in Khulna, near the Sundarbans and the export-orientated shrimp farms of Bangladesh.
This conference was designed to enable a wide group of coastal community networks from around the world to meet, share experiences and plan a common advocacy strategy. In this regard, the participation of a variety of international organisations that included Redmanglar (Latin America), African Mangrove Network (Nigeria), KIARA (Indonesia), Yadfon Association (Thailand), Instituto Terramar (Brazil) and the ASIA network, ensured an immensely valuable five-day skill-share and strategy meeting. The networks also met with representatives from the Aquaculture Stewardship Scheme, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-driven process that is seeking to certify tropical shrimp production for an aquaculture label similar to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label in Europe and the USA.
Conference participants met with communities who have fallen victim to industrial shrimp farming around Khulna, listening to powerful testimonies from women's groups on how the rape and murder of community activists who speak out against the shrimp farms continues to this day. The overarching aim of the field visit was to communicate the importance of human rights issues in the proposed WWF shrimp certification scheme. Set against this shocking backdrop, the coastal networks delivered a powerful critique to the NGOs and industry representatives of the Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue scheme, highlighting that the marginalised voices of coastal peoples need to be strongly considered in any discussion involving the certification of industrial shrimp aquaculture.