Exploring Costa Rican aquaculture

Published August 16, 2011

From Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation Through our partnership with Costa Rica Tourism, I have the opportunity to spend a week in Costa Rica. Most of my time will be spent with the lucky family that won our "Get Going to Costa Rica" family vacation sweepstakes. Throughout the week, I will be taking the family to various parts of the country so they can learn more about the wildlife and our conservation work in this beautiful country. But first, I spent a day on the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica touring locally owned shrimp farms. Shallow ponds, some several hectares, were filled with white shrimp in various stages of development. The shrimp are fed organic feed twice a day and never exposed to antibiotics or pesticides. Once a month, the feed is coated with garlic and melaza. This tends to keep the shrimp healthy and eliminates the needs for antibiotics used in other areas of the world. After 75-100 days, the shrimp are harvested and processed for export. Some of these shrimp end up on the menu in the Aquarium's Harbor Market Kitchen!

In the Aquarium's newly renovated cafe, we are emphasizing the use of local, organic, or sustainably raised food. Sodexo, our food services partner in this effort, has identified the Costa Rican Laughing Bird shrimp as a product that will please customers without jeopardizing our mission to conserve our natural resources and to make thoughtful choices.

After spending the day with several farm owners and managers it is easy to see they made a good decision. Aquaculture practices in Costa Rica are strictly regulated, water quality is tested by the Ministry of Agriculture, and the environmental destruction you see in many other countries is rare (mangroves have been protected since the 1970s). Protected crocodiles in the ponds were even left alone (and there were quite a few), and birds and iguanas were prevalent. On some farms, cattle are allowed access to keep the grass on the banks surrounding the ponds at a manageable height. It was a fascinating day. There are so many reasons why we need to begin new ways of thinking about the food we eat, where it comes from, and how we need to put less pressure on our oceans. Sustainable aquaculture can be part of the answer. Stay tuned for more updates of my travels through this amazing country!
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