Environmental Management

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 649–666

Issues, impacts, and implications of shrimp aquaculture in Thailand

  • Forrest E. Dierberg
  • Woraphan Kiattisimkul


Water quality impacts to and from intensive shrimp aquaculture in Thailand are substantial. Besides the surface and subsurface salinization of freshwaters, loadings of solids, oxygen-consuming organic matter, and nutrients to receiving waters are considerable when the cumulative impacts from water exchange during the growout cycle, pond drainage during harvesting, and illegal pond sediment disposal are taken into account. Although just beginning to be considered in Thailand, partial recirculating and integrated intensive farming systems are producing promising, if somewhat limited, results. By providing on-site treatment of the effluent from the shrimp growout ponds, there is less reliance on using outside water supplies, believed to be the source of the contamination.

The explosion in the number of intensively operated shrimp farms has not only impacted the coastal zone of Thailand, but has also resulted in an unsustainable aquaculture industry. Abandonment of shrimp ponds due to either drastic, disease-caused collapses or more grandual, year-to-year reductions in the productivity of the pond is common. To move Thailand towards a more sustainable aquaculture industry and coastal zone environment, integrated aquaculture management is needed. Components of integrated aquaculture management are technical and institutional. The technical components involve deployment of wastewater treatment and minimal water-use systems aimed at making aquaculture operations more hydraulically closed. Before this is possible, technical and economic feasibility studies on enhanced nitrification systems and organic solids removal by oxidation between production cycles and/or the utilization of plastic pond liners need to be conducted. The integration of semi-intensive aquaculture within mangrove areas also should be investigated since mangrove losses attributable to shrimp aquaculture are estimated to be between 16 and 32% of the total mangrove area destroyed betweeen 1979 and 1993.

Government policy needs to devote as much attention to sustainability issues as it has on promoting intensive pond culture. Such a balanced policy would include training and education monitoring and enforcement, rehabilitating abandoned ponds, managing land use within the coastal zone, more community involvement, and government reorganization to eliminate overlapping jurisdictions among agencies.

As integrated aquaculture management becomes more the practice than the exception, less risk of crop failure to the industry and reduced discharge loadings from intensively managed shrimp ponds to receiving waters can be expected. Projected limitations on growing and marketing shrimp in the future, such as scarcity of land and broodstock, continued disease outbreaks, negative publicity, regulatory enforcement, water treatment and solids disposal costs, and increased competition from growers in other Asian countries will also drive the government and the industry towards adopting integrated aquaculture management.

Key words

Shrimp aquaculture Thailand Historical practices Environmental impacts Sustainability Integrated management Water treatment Institutional aspects 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Forrest E. Dierberg
    • 1
  • Woraphan Kiattisimkul
    • 2
  1. 1.DB Environmental Laboratories, Inc.RockledgeUSA
  2. 2.ASPAC ConsultantsPhakanong, Khlongtoe BangkokThailand

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