I spent a few days fishing in a small lake in Tennessee, and I caught an odd fish: a shrimp.
I had never seen shrimp before.
I’d never seen anything like it.
I got to the lake’s edge, and in a moment of clarity, I realized this was no ordinary shrimp.
This was a shrimp from the wild.
This was an endangered species of shrimp.
This shrimp was a captive-bred shrimp, and this was a live shrimp.
This was the rarest of shrimp, the most endangered of shrimp species, and yet here it was, living on a farm in a state that had never before granted a fishing license to one of its citizens.
In the fall of 2005, I had the good fortune to be living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in a place known as the “Fishland.”
The Fishland is one of the best places to fish in the country.
The waters of this lake are as rich with fish as any pond on earth, and the fish are abundant.
The lakes, the farms, and even the homes are all filled with shrimp.
It’s a wonder the fish don’t end up dying on the shores.
The Fishlands fish are a keystone species.
They’re the ones that make up the crust of the fishy world.
When a shrimp is caught, its flesh is eaten, and when it’s cooked, the shrimp’s skin is used to make fish oil, or fish sauce, or shrimp stock.
Shrimp are so important to the global shrimp supply that in 2008, a government study estimated that the total worldwide catch of shrimp was over 40 million metric tons, or about 40 percent of all the seafood produced in the world.
The fish are so critical to our food supply that the United Nations has even declared them a World Heritage Site.
Shrimp is an incredibly important resource for the seafood industry.
It is used in many of the most popular types of seafood, including tuna, crab, lobster, shrimp, trout, mackerel, oysters, mac and cheese, and krill.
In a sense, shrimp is the food of the world, a valuable commodity that supplies our world with protein, iron, and other nutrients.
The fish are an important part of a food chain.
As the fish migrates around the world and into the sea, it consumes a vast amount of seafood and provides a source of energy for all the other fish.
In the US alone, shrimp production accounts for some $30 billion in annual GDP.
The shrimp industry employs more than 100,000 people and accounts for almost a third of the total U.S. seafood industry employment.
Shrimp and shrimp stocks are a critical part of the global food supply.
A single shrimp can feed around 100,00 people.
If we could find shrimp in every corner of the globe, the world would be a much healthier place.
Shrimps are keystone fish.
They make up a key component of a species.
Their success is a direct result of the quality of their eggs, and their production depends on the presence of healthy wild populations of the species.
In other words, the fish and shrimp are a crucial part of our food chain, the food chain that sustains our planet.
This story is part of an initiative by the National Geographic Society to celebrate our shared history with shrimp and shrimp fisheries.
To learn more about the initiative, visit www.nps.gov/shrimp/