AMHERST, Mass. – A second documentary film, “Raising Shrimp,” from executive producer Ted Caplow at Fish Navy Films and featuring aquatic ecologist Andy Danylchuk of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been named an official selection of the highly regarded Blue Ocean Film Festival this year, where it will be screened on Thursday, Nov. 6 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Their first film, “Fish Meat,” won an honorable mention at Blue Ocean in 2012 in Monterey, Calif. As an official selection this year, “Raising Shrimp” is automatically eligible for an advanced award at this year’s festival, Danylchuk notes.
He says the new documentary, “Raising Shrimp,” offers a deeper exploration of some of the issues he and Caplow raised in “Fish Meat,” which looked at aquaculture methods and its impacts around the globe, in particular environmental concerns with fish farming. The first film touched on what consumers need to know to make informed decisions about choosing fish, where to shop for it and how to avoid contributing to harmful impacts. The new film asks some of the same questions about shrimp.
“Shrimp is the most popular seafood in North America,” says Danylchuk. “We consume an average four pounds per person per year, higher than any other seafood. But 90 percent is imported, and most of that is farmed, not wild caught. In ‘Raising Shrimp,’ we look at such questions as where it comes from and how it is harvested. With this new movie we want to show how these facts play out domestically.”
The 50-minute film was shot along the Texas Gulf Coast, where shrimp trawling vessels drag heavy chains across the sea floor and in mangrove ecosystems that provide shrimp nursery habitat. It visits ocean-based shrimp farms and laboratory shrimp-rearing facilities in Texas, Belize and China.
Danylchuk and Caplow’s latest work asks what happened to the American shrimp fishery and what a more local source of shrimp might mean for our health and the health of our nation. Danylchuk says, “‘Raising Shrimp’ is a much stronger film because it has a greater domestic anchor. We get into things that directly affect the person eating that shrimp.”
Caplow, who takes an engineering approach to shrimp production in the film, and ecologist Danylchuk, search for what they call “a seafood we can all believe in.” They explore the “cutthroat global trade of seafood,” where they note, “only the shrewd survive.”
The two men conduct a series of what they call “harrowing” on-camera interviews with food safety experts and say they ultimately “find hope in a most unlikely place, as their journey makes a sharp turn into modern agricultural science.” The film reveals why shrimp is more than just a tasty dining choice, and how it could offer a path toward a more environmentally friendly, sustainable direction for our entire food culture.
As part of his work in the department of environmental conservation at UMass Amherst, Danylchuk recently enlisted some of his Fish Navy Films colleagues to begin a new campus initiative, the Science Media Collaborative. He and Fish Navy staff, with students in the UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management (ISOM), College of Natural Sciences, film studies, and the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration program have created a collective focused on using video media for science education and conservation.
“It will be an authentic, hands-on experience for students learning how to effectively use video media. It will prepare them to understand the business side of film-making, which is changing so fast. Things like finance, marketing, distribution, entrepreneurship, business plans and crowdsourcing that you need to know for such projects during this video media revolution.”