Prawn, King (whiteleg), prawns

Litopenaeus vannamei

Method of production — Farmed
Production country — Global
Production method — Pond system
Certification — Soil Association and EU Organic certification
Picture of Prawn, King (whiteleg), prawns

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Organic Certification Standards for prawn set comprehensive standards for production which includes third party auditing and site inspection, the production standards cover hatchery production and feed production. Organic standards require that the number of negative environmental impacts associated with prawn farming are addressed in their production standards. In general issues of environmental concern include: Impacts on ecologically sensitive habitats; the risk of salinisation of freshwater bodies; discharge of organic matter and nutrients leading to environmental changes; the use of chemicals and therapeutics in production and the potential of disease transfer between farmed and wild prawns. Marine prawns are carnivorous requiring high protein inclusion on their diet, this is one of the most critical concerns regarding prawn farming as the supply of fishmeal and fish-oil being used is in general not traceable to species level and is not certified sustainable. With organic prawns their is no dependency on wild capture fisheries for direct use into feeds as all marine ingredients are sourced from by-products of human consumption fisheries.

Feed Resources

Criterion Score:0

The organic production of L. vannamei production in Ecuador and Honduras relies upon both marine and terrestrial feed ingredients, organic standards require traceability and organic origin of the terrestrial ingredients, with marine however, despite the encouragement of by-product use whole fish are permitted to be used for feed production. There is no requirement for whole fish going into feed production to be certified as sustainable, however farmers in this region typically use commercial feeds produced by well-established, global feed companies that are demonstrably striving towards using 100% responsible feed inputs within the next two years.


Environmental Impacts

Criterion Score: 0 

Unlike some parts of the world, where shrimp farming has been responsible for large-scale mangrove removal, farms in Ecuador and Honduras have mainly been sited on coastal salt flats, away from mangrove zones. Due to the criteria within the organic standards and the relatively low stocking densities employed, chemical use is low and antibiotic use is minimal. Likewise, feed inputs are also commensurately low, and effluents reportedly do not generally cause negative environmental impacts. L. vannamei are native to the region and the sector is reliant on hatchery production of PLs, which in turn are the progeny of domestically raised broodstock. While shrimp are susceptible to an array of diseases, particularly viral pathogens, it is notable that direct environmental impacts of shrimp viruses have not been commonly observed. Non-lethal predatory controls would appear to be the norm within the sector but data is limited in this area.


Fish Health and Welfare

Criterion Score: 1

Extensive provision is made for fish welfare and humane slaughter within organic production standards.



Criterion Score: 4

As a result of the significant impact diseases had on the sector during the 1990s, present-day shrimp farmers in Ecuador and Honduras mainly favour semi-intensive production practices. These historical disease issues also prompted greater scrutiny of the regulations governing the sector and resulted in a more robust legal framework being put in place. However, a review of the sector indicates that current governance may not be adequately resourced to effectively manage the potential environmental impacts of the industry, particularly as the sector expands and production increases. Although organic standards address many of the production practice specific issues the issues of overarching regulation and management of the sector remain unchanged.


Production method

Pond system

Prawn /shrimp are farmed in saline/brackish water ponds of various sizes and intensities in many countries , either in coastal areas or inland within or outside the intertidal zone.


The king prawn (or whiteleg prawn, white shrimp) belongs to the largest of the prawn and shrimp family, the Penaeidae. It is a native species of the Eastern Pacific coast. Its lifecycle may be divided into 6 stages or phases, from embryo to adult, which it completes in one year. The age of sexual maturity varies from 5 to 7 months. They can live up to 2 years in the wild although farmed prawns are usually harvested at 6 months.


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