The film chronicles the lifelong effort by Thornton, an Illinois native transplanted to Belize, to farm shrimp while leaving as small an imprint on ecosystems and waters as possible. She’s largely succeeded, as you’ll see, and is working with the World Wildlife Fund to try to develop a standard for farm-raised shrimp that can provide consumers with the confidence that they can enjoy this immensely popular seafood and a thriving environment, as well.
The film spans three decades, following Thornton’s journey from early experiments with urban indoor shrimp farming in Chicago to hard-won success in Belize, a country aiming to build its economy without harming its extraordinary natural assets particularly its coastal mangrove forests and thriving coral reefs.
Undaunted by a boating accident that in 1994 took the lives of her husband and two other men and left her partially paralyzed, Thornton rebuilt her body and her early Belizean pig-farming business. After initial confrontations with environmental groups fighting a wave of shrimp farm development that was damaging coastal ecosystems from Asia to the Americas, Thornton, together with Tim Smith, a biologist working for the World Wildlife Fund, refined methods for controlling feed and water that dramatically cut pollution.
Nearly all of the shrimp raised at the three farms where Thornton works never leave the Caribbean. But other efforts are under way to grow shrimp for American restaurants and shoppers without antibiotics or the environmental impacts associated with old methods for farming, or netting, shrimp. One of the most interesting is the Blue Oasis Pure Shrimp facility outside of Las Vegas that is preparing for its first harvest of several million shrimp this fall. (Here’s a recent CNN report on the operation.) My prediction is that such enterprises will spread, redefining “local food.”
This is an engaging and exquisitely executed project on a very worthwhile issue. It makes me want to go to Belize, meet her, and see this shrimp farm in operation. The video helps enable us to envision a solution, which is my definition of hope. Inspiring and well-done!
Randy Olson, the marine biologist turned filmmaker and science-communication evangelist, has given a thumbs up.