Academic journal article Human Organization

Resisting the Blue Revolution: Contending Coalitions Surrounding Industrial Shrimp Farming

Academic journal article Human Organization

Resisting the Blue Revolution: Contending Coalitions Surrounding Industrial Shrimp Farming

Article excerpt

Multinational corporations, national governments, and international development agencies are promoting the expansion of industrial shrimp farming in tropical, coastal zones of Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Support is based on the belief that shrimp farming can contribute to the world's food supply by compensating for declines in capture fisheries, generate significant foreign exchange earnings, and enhance employment opportunities and incomes in poor, coastal communities. However, the explosive growth of the industry is generating mounting criticisms over its social, economic, and environmental consequences. The escalating conflicts between critics and supporters of industrial shrimp farming have transcended local and national arenas.

They have catalyzed the formation of global alliances of environmental and peasant-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) opposed to shrimp farming and of industry groups seeking to counter the claims and campaigns of this resistance coalition. This paper uses a political ecology approach to examine the formation of these contending global coalitions and the establishment of a global environmental and political arena around shrimp farming. The paper contributes to our understanding of the dynamic roles of NGOs in transnational advocacy networks and the extent to which transnational networks can transcend traditional sources of weakness of local organizations.

Keywords: aquaculture, globalization, shrimp farming, political ecology, NGOs, environmental movements

Aquaculture1 frequently is extolled as the "Blue Revolution"-a critical source of high-quality animal protein, essential to feed growing human populations in light of stagnating or declining marine stocks (Bardach 1997). The contribution of aquaculture to the total quantity of fish available for human consumption grew from 12 percent to 22 percent between 1984 and 1993 and may increase to more than 50 percent of the total value of the global food catch within the next 15 years (CGIAR 1995). In many ways this Blue Revolution is analogous to the Green Revolution in agriculture (Pollnac and Weeks 1992). As the Green Revolution was acclaimed as the means to end world hunger, the Blue Revolution often is hailed as a way to increase incomes and the available supply of affordable food among the poor in the third world. As the Green Revolution was necessary to the establishment of the global agro-food system, the Blue Revolution is an essential part of integrating many important aquatic species and coastal ecosystems into that same global system.2

Financially strapped national governments with the assistance of international donor agencies frequently are significant promoters of export-oriented aquacultural development regardless of the social and environmental consequences (Bailey and Skladeny 1991). Globalization also has been advanced by augmented vertical and horizontal integration of production that integrates powerful transnational enterprises in the agro-food sector; by an increasing number of multinational joint ventures involving Asian, Latin American, U.S., and European corporations and governments; and by the emergence of a vast network of organizations and corporations that provide services and products (Skladany and Harris 1995; Stonich, Bort, and Ovares 1997). Increased globalization has enabled producers to transfer production among countries in the event of unacceptable social conflicts, ecological destruction, epidemic disease outbreaks, or natural disasters.

The potential of aquaculture to improve the nutrition and incomes of the poor has been impeded by the emphasis on the cultivation of high-value, carnivorous species destined for market in industrial nations. The primary motives are generating high profits for producers and input suppliers and enhancing export earnings for national treasuries. This is particularly true of industrial shrimp farming-the cultivation of shrimp in brackish water ponds along estuaries and other coastal zones. …

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