ARCHIVES

Shrimping, Slavery, and Species Extinction (from CNN)

December 7th, 2009

When I stood on the white sand of a nearly empty Cambodian beach, our fixer’s words sat ponderously heavy in my thoughts. Next to me was a gnarled trunk of a mangrove tree, dead for years. Behind me was a landscape of excavated shrimp farms, their large reservoirs carved out of what once was coastal swamp, rich with mangrove. At my feet the Gulf of Thailand gently rolled up the sand. It was tranquil place to spend my last day in Cambodia. It was also suffering from environmental degradation due to the shrimp farming.

Looking out to the ocean, I thought about the previous few days trying to connect with undocumented migrants, to follow them through minefields into Thailand, to hear their stories of the risks they take to feed their families. I was looking at labor slaves–human trafficking for labor–following reports from a non governmental organization. Most of it detailed abuses in the fishing industry. This is a project I long to finish, but one that is difficult, dangerous, and expensive to complete. That tranquil beach, which helped me accept my efforts, however incomplete, was nearly a year ago.

Today I received an email about the shrimp industry. It included a video from CNN which interviewed domestic shrimpers whose livelihoods are impacted by foreign shrimping. Some of it is the cheaper cost of operating overseas, some of it is because of slavery abroad. As a consumer of shrimp, the US is fueling demand for cheap shrimp. The CNN report goes one step further than many news reports. It found an authority to speak about the responsibility the consumer has for human trafficking. After all, we buy the shrimp but don’t demand that it is slave free.

As I hit the “publish” button, I am minutes away from a preliminary interview with a leading scientist whose research contribution has helped identify a sea animal that is literally on the verge of extinction. But he and his colleagues are hopeful: their work has helped move government and industry to begin major, life saving changes. The root cause of the species’ decimation? Fishing, in part, for shrimp.

Who knew such a small creature could have a global impact? I suppose if we, the bigger creature, were more responsible with our harvest it wouldn’t be the case.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

2 Responses to “Shrimping, Slavery, and Species Extinction (from CNN)”

  1. Great Story, thanks for sharing. BTW, I love your work, absolutely amazing.

  2. tim matsui says:

    Thanks for the note Gino. You’ve got some great wedding images yourself!
    tim

TIM MATSUI CONTACT INFO

VIEW PROFILE
US mobile: 1.206.409.3069
skype: timmatsui
e: tim(at)timmatsui.com

PO Box 17941
Seattle, WA 98127 USA