More than sixty miles from the nearest ocean, Pacific white shrimp are growing plump and juicy in pure fresh water from deep artesian wells. They have been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as organic, meaning they are produced without any antibiotics, growth hormones, conventional pesticides, or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients.
OceanBoy shrimp farms, located in south central Florida, are the brainchild of David MacMahon. With a doctorate in marine biology, MacMahon says he has witnessed the destruction wrought by both shrimpers at sea and shrimp farmers, and set a goal for his company of providing a superior product without any environmental damage. Traditional shrimpers scour the bottom of the ocean floor with drag nets harming ocean floor habitats and reefs, while shrimp farmers have destroyed thousands of acres of mangrove swamps with the pollution created by coastal shrimp farming. Mangrove forests and their estuaries are the nurseries for many ocean fish.
MacMahon raises his shrimp in a system of ponds that are lined with high-density polyethylene allowing no exchange between the ponds and the ground. Water is pumped into the ponds from artesian wells. Dirty water containing waste products is cleaned with filters as well as natural systems such as young mangroves living in the ponds. There is no discharge, and all of the water is recirculated through the system. The mangrove trees are sold or donated to groups that are replanting mangrove forests along the coast.
Organic shrimp from OceanBoy can cost nearly twice what other shrimp are selling for, but MacMahon believes there is a growing demand for products such as his that assure people the food is safe and healthy. In addition, he says, shrimp is the second most popular seafood after tuna. He already has plans to double and triple the size of his operations over the next few years. In his view, the future of marketable and affordable seafood is in aquaculture, not the open ocean.