Climate Smart Shrimp Initiative
Project Leads: Conservation International
Support: Thinking Machines Data Science, Longline Environment, Tambuyog Development Center Inc.
Shrimp aquaculture provides local livelihoods and food security benefits. However, its expansion has often come at the cost of coastal ecosystems. Sustainable intensification provides an alternative that produces more within a smaller footprint, but many farmers face barriers to make that transition, including access to capital, technology, expertise, and guaranteed markets. ORRAA partner Conservation International is piloting Climate Smart Shrimp to incentivise mangrove restoration while also providing the tools for shrimp farmers to produce more sustainable seafood.
Farmed shrimp production grew globally by more than 10,000% over the last three decades to produce an estimated 6.5 million metric tons of shrimp in 2018, critical to local livelihoods and food security. In the Philippines, approximately 200,000 hectares of mangroves, almost 40% of the historical total, have been damaged or degraded by aquaculture activities (including shrimp farming). Mangroves serve as natural structural barriers, reducing coastal erosion, providing habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species and also dissipating wave energy and storm surges. The 80% of Filipinos who live in coastal municipalities are increasingly vulnerable to typhoons and other coastal hazards, which are likely to increase in intensity and occurrence due to climate change.
Restoring coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and coastal wetlands enhances coastal resilience through climate adaptation and provides habitat benefits while also improving water quality by filtering out pollutants and absorbing nutrients. However, restoration at scale requires substantial funding and land available for restoration is limited.
 Data from United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation, Fisheries and Aquaculture Division, Global Aquaculture Production Dataset. https://www.fao.org/fishery/en/collection/aquaculture
To overcome these challenges, ORRAA partner Conservation International (CI) is piloting a novel approach – Climate Smart Shrimp (CSS) – that incentivizes mangrove restoration while providing the tools for shrimp farmers to sustainably produce more seafood. By applying this model, shrimp farmers, supply chain companies, and other stakeholders work together to sustainably intensify production on a portion of a farm’s ponds in exchange for restoring mangroves on the remaining ponds. This results in less damage to the surrounding environment from pond-based shrimp production, and builds a resilience buffer, protecting the ponds, communities and other coastal infrastructure from extreme storms and other impacts of climate change.
To apply CSS in the Philippines, CI and its partners are working to create the enabling conditions for the adoption of CSS, including conducting pilot site assessments, spatial scaling analyses, stakeholder outreach, and financing scoping studies.
Scalability and Next Steps
Pre-emptive, innovative, and scalable adaptation solutions are needed to reduce climate impacts to communities and future generations. This project reverses the paradigm of shrimp aquaculture as an agent of mangrove deforestation and pollution, and instead couples sustainable intensification of shrimp farming with mangrove restoration to provide biodiversity and community climate adaptation benefits. CI intends to develop pilot sites in the Philippines, with the potential to scale this approach nationally and in other major shrimp producing countries globally.