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Shrimp farms threaten livelihoods of small-scale fishers

State-supported and illegal shrimp farms are threatening the livelihoods of small-scale fishers in Tamil Nadu, South India. The farms encroach on territory, degrade water bodies and restrict access to fishing grounds. The government of Tamil Nadu must uphold the law and protect the right to food and nutrition of fishing communities.

FIAN International is working with fisherfolk representatives in Tamil Nadu to highlight the situation in two small fishing communities, in Chandrapadi and Chinnakottaimedu, who depend on traditional boat fishing.

A new case study Impact of Shrimp Aquaculture on Fisher People’s Right to Food and Nutrition in India: A case study from two fishing hamlets in Tamil Nadu describes how the encroachment of shrimp farms since the early 1990s has led to severe environmental degradation. Mangroves have been cleared and tidal flats dredged for artificial canals, disrupting once thriving ecosystems.

Livelihoods devastated

"This is a prime example of why aquaculture is a false solution to food security. Its expansion has devastated the lives and livelihoods of fisher peoples around the world and particularly in Asia," says FIAN International Case Work and Research officer Yifang Tang.

"Aquaculture is diverse. Even seemingly small-scale projects can harm the environment and have a huge impact on the right to food and nutrition of local fishing communities."

The reckless expansion of shrimp farming has been linked to water contamination, degradation of soil fertility, loss of livelihoods, denial of access to fishing grounds, adverse health effects, water shortages and social and cultural disruption.

The Tamil Nadu government has failed to enforce existing laws and protect the communities’ rights.

"We demand that government agencies monitor the closure of the farms based on the Coastal Regulation Zone of 2019 and existing court orders on shrimp industry since 1996,” says Jones T Spartegus from the Tamil Nadu Coastal Action Network, referring to a court ruling this week, the latest in a series ordering the closure of illegal shrimp farms.

“We also urge the Tamil Nadu government to redistribute the coastal common lands to the fisher people’s villages to secure and protect the ecology."

The human toll of shrimp farming

Contamination of water bodies through the discharge of untreated chemicals has led to a reduction in the size and quality of fish and shellfish, threatening the communities’ main source of food in Chandrapadi and Chinnakotaimedu.

The loss of farmland to shrimp farms has also disrupted local food systems, forcing families to buy – rather than grow – their food, which affects household incomes. The denial of access to fishing grounds and the loss of traditional fishing techniques has caused economic hardship for fishing communities.

The communities have also experienced adverse health effects, including allergies and skin diseases, which they believe are linked to shrimp farm pollution.

The state government's promotion of shrimp farms through financial incentives and its failure to enforce its own regulations underscores the urgent need for action to protect the human rights and livelihoods of these fishing communities.

Download here - Impact of Shrimp Aquaculture on Fisher People’s Right to Food and Nutrition in India: A case study from two fishing hamlets in Tamil Nadu.

For more information or media interviews please contact Clara Roig Medina or Tom Sullivan


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