Environmental organization WWF is warning Norwegians against indulging in one of their most popular summertime meals: Fresh shrimps, normally served with bread and mayonnaise, cold beer or white wine. It’s the fresh shrimps themselves that WWF worries about, because of poor management of shrimp stocks.
The group poured cold water Monday over the sociable prospects for peeling and eating shrimps this summer, an infuriated those who make their living catching shrimp. WWF claims that shrimp stocks are threatened in the North Sea and Skagerrak, areas that produce most of the fresh shrimp sold in southern Norway. In a report released this week, WWF classifies shrimp from the seas off southern Norway in its red zone, meaning they shouldn’t be consumed because of uncertainty around stocks.
“There’s a lot of mistakes and deficiencies regarding management of shrimp (called reker in Norwegian) in the North Sea and Skagerrak,” Lars Andresen of WWF-Norge told newspaper Dagsavisen on Monday. “Dumping of small shrimps seems to be on the increase in all three Scandinavian countries that fish these stocks, that is Norway, Sweden and Denmark.”
He added that the shrimp boats can also catch too many other threatened species, while the actual shrimp stocks themselves may be lower than estimated. Andresen said international experts thus recommend that the shrimp catch be cut in half from the amount caught last year. “And we think shrimp managment overall must improve,” he told Dagsavisen.
The bigger shrimp caught in the Barents Sea and other Arctic waters, meanwhile, are not threatened and stocks are ample, “so they’re fine to eat,” Andresen said. They’re also the shrimp most commonly available in grocery stores, but they’re generally frozen, not fresh. While some think they’re juicier and taste better, many Norwegians prefer freshly cooked shrimp, often sold right off the boat in harbours all along the coast.
‘I’ll go bankrupt’
Erik Johannesen, skipper on board the fishing boat Pelican at Oslo Harbour, scoffed at the WWF warning and told Dagsvisen that “if folks follow it, I’ll go bankrupt.” He conceded that shrimp stocks have declined in the Oslo Fjord over the past several years, but he attributes that to “natural swings” and not to any overfishing.
Johannesen claimed he and his colleagues only fish in a small area of the fjord, “and we’re not taking anything close to all the shrimp found here. Our catch is just a drop in the bucket.” WWF’s warning infuriated Johannesen and fellow shrimp boat operators, who now fear a decline in customers.
Andresen said WWF “absolutely doesn’t want to keep folks from eating fresh shrimp forever. We just want them to reduce consumption until better management is in place. And everyone can eat as many (frozen) Grønland shrimps as they want.”
That’s small comfort for Johannesen, who sells fresh shrimp off his boat every Thursday and Friday. “Fresh shrimp and frozen shrimp are two different things,” he claimed.