Prawn, King (whiteleg), prawns

Litopenaeus vannamei

Method of production — Farmed
Production country — India, Vietnam and Indonesia
Production method — Pond system, Intensive & Semi-intensive
Picture of Prawn, King (whiteleg), prawns

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

In general intensive prawn/shrimp farming is associated with a number of negative environmental impacts which are of concern, these 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 particularly in SE Asia. However, there is a significant amount of International work being undertaken at present to address and improve feed production and sourcing. There are also concerns regarding the current regulatory framework and level of enforcement for aquaculture production in South East Asia. The rating provided applies at a country/regional level, and includes GAA BAP 1* certified prawns as this 1* only applies to the processing plant. MCS recognises there is a diversity of practices and producers of warmwater prawn, some of which may be working to improve their practices. In these exceptional cases MCS would encourage support of these producers provided, and only if, a commitment to improvement which ultimately leads to achieving a recognised production standard can be verified.

Feed Resources

Criterion Score: -4

Whiteleg prawn are a fed species that require some fishmeal in their diet. However the ingredients that make up their feed are difficult to trace and therefore sustainability is unknown.


Environmental Impacts

Criterion Score: -4

Prawns that are not farmed to any certification standard have no way of demonstrating responsible practices. As it is known that prawn farming can impact freshwater, habitats, use a range of chemicals including antibiotics, suffer disease outbreaks and experience escapes it is precautionary to reflect these environmental impacts.


Fish Health and Welfare

Criterion Score: -1

Welfare standards are not applicable to crustacea species.



Criterion Score: 3

Although there may be regulations in place for some of the issues of production these cannot be deemed effective when the environmental performance of some uncertified prawn farms is poor.


Production method

Pond system, Intensive & Semi-intensive

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.


FAO 2006-2018.Cultured Aquatic Species Information Programme. Penaeus vannamei. Cultured Aquatic Species Information Programme. Text by Briggs, M. In: FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department [online]. Rome. Updated 7 April 2006. [Cited 10 September 2018]

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Farmed Shrimp report, 2004. Available online at:

F. Paez Osuna (A): The environmental impact of shrimp aquaculture: a global perspective. Environmental Pollution 112 (2001) 229-231
F. Paez Osuna: The Environmental Impact of Shrimp Aquaculture: Causes, Effects, and Mitigating Alternatives. Environmental Management.2001 Vol. 28, No. 1

Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. Seafood Sectors - Shrimp. Available online at: and

IFFO 2009, FIFO ratios explained. Available online at:

ASC: Draft standards for responsible shrimp aquaculture 2011.