The Thailand shrimp industry has been consistently developed since the beginning of the 20th century. In the early days of the industry, that mean commercial fishermen went out to harvest the local biomass. Today, however, the industry is on the cutting edge of aquaculture techniques.
Freshwater and brackish water aquaculture are both major components of the industry today. Total aquaculture production within the industry in 2003 achieved more than 1 billion tons of product for the first time. In any given year, aquaculture production accounts for at least one-quarter of the industry’s overall results.
Freshwater aquaculture has been operational in Thailand since 1922. More than 50 different species are currently farmed using these methods. Brackish water along coastal fisheries have helped to promote the shrimp culture even more than in years past.
Informative Thailand Shrimp Industry Statistics
#1. About 90% of the production of the Thailand shrimp industry is exported every year. The industry accounts for about 4% of the country’s total exports. (Seafish Industry Authority)
#2. In 2013, the last year of reliable data available, about $7 billion in total seafood exports were generated by the Thailand shrimp industry. Prepared and preserved shrimp or prawns accounted for $1.1 billion of that total. Frozen shrimp and prawns contributed another $895 million. (Seafish Industry Authority)
#3. The United States is the biggest importer for the Thailand shrimp industry. In 2013, it accounted for 22.8% of total exports. Japan is another major importer of seafood products from Thailand, accounting for 20.4% of total exports. (Seafish Industry Authority)
#4. Aquaculture is a dominant force within the Thailand shrimp industry. In its most recent survey, aquaculture accounted for 80% of the total shrimp production. There are currently about 25,00 farms that support the industry. (Seafish Industry Authority)
#5. The Thailand shrimp industry helps to support the indirect and direct employment of more than 650,000 people. About two-thirds of the employment opportunities found within the industry come from the aquaculture sector of the industry. (Seafish Industry Authority)
#6. About 78,000 people are employed in brackish water aquaculture within the local shrimp industry. (Seafish Industry Authority)
#7. Migrant work is relatively high within the Thailand shrimp industry. A government estimate from 2015 placed the number of migrant workers at over 71,000. (Seafish Industry Authority)
#8. The giant tiger prawn is the most common product produced by the Thailand shrimp industry. It accounts for about 98% of the total shrimp production within the industry. It is also 40% of the brackish aquaculture production. (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
#9. Thailand has been the #1 global exporter of aquaculture and fishery produced since 1993. (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
#10. Labor practices found within the Thailand shrimp industry are classified as Tier 3 by the U.S. government. This means that workers are paid irregularly, may be required to work 20-hour shifts, 7 days per week, and could be physically beaten as a form of discipline. (Seafish Industry Authority)
#11. Since 1994, the global production of shrimp has increased by more than 25%. The Thailand shrimp industry has been responsible for much of that growth. In 2004, about 3.6 million tons of shrimp were caught, which accounted for about 4.4% of the total marine harvest. (World Aquaculture)
#12. About 43% of all shrimp that enter the human food chain are cultivated in some form of aquaculture practice. (World Aquaculture)
#13. There are about 60 species in total that are available through the Thailand shrimp industry, but only one-third of them have statistics kept on them. In Thailand, 19 species make up just 2% of the total market share. (World Aquaculture)
#14. In the United States, about 90% of the shrimp that is consumed has been imported, with the Thailand shrimp industry leading the way. Just 2% of imported shrimp are inspected by a U.S.-based regulator agency. (Rodale Wellness)
#15. Imported shrimp has been known to be contaminated with pesticides, chemicals, and other problematic substances that come from the brackish aquaculture practices that are currently used by the Thailand shrimp industry. (Rodale Wellness)
#16. Even though just 2% of imports are inspected, shrimp imports account for up to 35% of the total imported seafood shipments that are rejected in the U.S. each year. (Food and Water Watch)
#17. Since 2007, inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration in the United States have rejected nearly 1,400 loads of seafood due to contamination issues. (Bloomberg)
#18. Outside of aquaculture, the total space that is trawled for shrimp each year is more than 150 times the size of forests that are clear-cut for agricultural purposes. That means for every kilogram of shrimp that is consumed through commercial fishing practices, another 10 kilograms of marine life is unintentionally caught. (Project Seahorse)
#19. The average serving size for shrimp in the United States is 3 ounces. That produces 100 calories, 15 of which are from fat. The biggest hit comes from the 180mg of cholesterol that come from a single serving, which is 60% of the recommended daily value. (Seafood Health Facts)
#20. Since 2014, a number of government regulations have been in place to reduce questionable industry practices. There must be a minimum worker age of 18 for any work done on sea vessels. There must be a minimum rest period of 10 hours each day. Employers must offer 30 days of annual leave and the labor contract must be signed with mutual consent. (Seafish Industry Authority)
#21. More than 1.6 million migrant workers were legally registered during an amnesty period for the industry, allowing for vessels and workers to legally work in Thailand while waiting for official verification of their status. (Seafish Industry Authority)
Thailand Shrimp Industry Trends and Analysis
Since 2014, the United States has listed shrimp and fish products from Thailand as goods that are produced by forced labor or with child labor. During the same year, the Walk Free Foundation listed Thailand as 44th in its global slavery index, with nearly 1% of the country’s current population classified as a slave.
Although the Thailand shrimp industry is a major exporter of seafood products, the ethics behind its production are very questionable, even by local standards. Thailand has ratified major human rights treaties and instruments since 1985, including an elimination of racial discrimination, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and others.
Until production ethics change so that the industry earns a tier promotion in labor practices by the United States and other nations, the growth potential of this industry will be very limited.