Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 301-321

First online:

Can Export-Oriented Aquaculture in Developing Countries be Sustainable and Promote Sustainable Development? The Shrimp Case

  • Marta G. Rivera-FerreAffiliated withFaculty of Veterinary Sciences, Animal and Food Sciences Department, Edifici V -Campus de la UAB Email author 

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Industrial shrimp farming has been promoted by international development and financial institutions in coastal indebted poor countries as a way to obtain foreign exchange earnings, reimburse external debt, and promote development. The promotion of the shrimp industry is a clear example of a more general trend of support of export-oriented primary products, consisting in monocultures of commodities, as opposed to the promotion of more diverse, traditional production directed to feed the local population. In general, it is assumed that export-oriented aquaculture and agriculture, in a framework of liberalization policies, facilitates economic growth and this is associated with poverty reduction and the improvement of food security. However, it has been shown that the promotion of export-oriented production, mostly in the hands of big corporations, can have detrimental consequences for the livelihoods of local populations and the environment. As a result, international institutions, NGOs, and the industry aim to minimize these impacts by promoting sustainable export-oriented production. But some impacts may remain, since the main issue is the primary focus on international deregulated markets and the search for cheap primary products. To illustrate the relationships between the mainstream concept of development, the environmental and social impact of industrial farming systems, and the promotion of export-oriented production in developing countries, this article analyzes the case of the shrimp aquaculture industry.


International financial institutions Food security Food sovereignty Food trade Liberalization policies Sustainable aquaculture