30 Sep 2014 - 3:24 PM  UPDATED 7 Oct 2014 - 1:48 PM

What species?

  • Over 70% of all seafood we eat comes from overseas – most of it from South East Asia.
  • Thailand has a multi-billion dollar prawn farm industry, exporting almost 500,000 tonnes of prawns per year, more than any other country in the world.
  • Prawns are the second most popular seafood in Australia, after Atlantic Salmon.

What’s the catch?

  • In Thailand, prawns are farmed inland in ponds and tanks along the coast, made possible from widespread clearing of mangroves and coastal areas adjacent to marine parks with low environmental regulation.
  • These prawn farms are not self-sufficient. The prawns are fed fishmeal, prawn feed containing ground up wild fish, caught from Thai fishing boats bottom trawling the ocean. 
  • Many of these Thai fishing boats are unlicensed, ‘ghost boats’ and are staffed by slaves.
  • Workers migrating from Burma, Laos and Cambodia pay brokers to smuggle them over the border and secure them jobs in factories in Thailand but instead are sold into slavery, kept out at sea on fishing boats for long periods of time, unable to escape.
  • According to the Global Slavery Index 2013, 450,000-500,000 people are estimated to be currently enslaved in Thailand, many in the fishing industry.
  • Thai fishing boats bottom trawl the ocean, weighing down nets and dragging them across the floor of the ocean, indiscriminately collecting anything and everything in their way and damaging habitats and ecosystems as a result. 
  • Any larger fish caught that can be marketed for food are sold and the remains are inappropriately deemed ‘trash fish,’ ground up to become feed for prawns.
  • ‘Trash fish’ can include, but is not limited to, juvenile crabs, starfish, sponges, sea snakes, small octopus, sea horses, puffer fish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, squid and juvenile fish that are not yet old enough to reproduce.
  • In the gulf of Thailand, more than 60% of everything caught in the ocean ends up as ‘trash fish.’
  • Four kilos of ‘trash fish’ is required to produce one kilo of farmed prawns.
  • The waste generated from these farmed prawns and concentrated in the ponds and tanks along the coast of Thailand can then pollute the surrounding waterways and the neighbouring marine parks when it is disposed of.
  • Thai prawns are on Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s Red List and the Australian Marine Conservation Society says to say no to eating these prawns.

What’s the solution?

  • Choose wild Australian caught prawns that come from certified fisheries.
  • Western King Prawns from the Spencer Gulf Prawn Trawl Fishery in South Australia have been found to be sustainable by the Australian Conservation Foundation's 'Sustainable Australian Seafood Assessment Program' and the Marine Stewardship Council. 
  • The Northern Prawn Fishery in Northern Australia has been certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. 
  • Stay tuned for episode 3 of ‘What’s the Catch?’ for exciting developments in the sustainability of Australian farmed prawns.

What’s the recipe?

Stir-fried prawns with black pepper and cardamom

More information


View our Prawns infographic