Fantastic mini-documentary by Pace U. student team shows the power of persistence and passion as an American entrepreneur pursues her dream of farming shrimp in Belize while sustaining a thriving environment. Press release:
New Film Explores Efforts to Farm Shrimp With the Environment in Mind
“Linda Thornton: Seeking Sustainability, One Shrimp at a Time”
PACE UNIVERSITY, May 11 — In a new documentary, “Linda Thornton: Seeking Sustainability, One Shrimp at a Time,” a team of Pace University student filmmakers explores the life of a resilient, pioneering aquaculture entrepreneur as she pushes the frontiers of sustainable shrimp farming in Belize.
Linda Thornton is the quintessential innovator, but with a deep green streak — overcoming daunting personal and technical challenges to fulfill a lifelong dream of farming a staple of the global middle class diet, shrimp, while cutting environmental impacts.
In this new short film, students in the award-winning Pace University course “Producing the Documentary” tell Thornton’s story, which over three decades takes her 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 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 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.
Their collaboration is part of a move within the shrimp aquaculture industry toward standards that could soon give shoppers the option of buying shrimp that are certified as sustainably raised. (Visit the World Wildlife Fund Shrimp Aquaculture Dialogue Web site for more background.)
Thornton, still in pain from her injuries long ago, now works at three different shrimp farms in Belize, one of which is her own Cardelli Farms, named for her father. She has also been a leader in improving labor practices in the industry.
In the film, Smith describes Thornton as gritty and creative and a natural bridge builder between the aquaculture industry and conservationists.
“She is one of the toughest and most competent people I have met,” Smith says. “Just a person that’s barely able to walk some mornings and she gets up and … runs a thousand acres of shrimp farms and then comes home and then runs her own farm. That’s not a trivial thing. There are hulls of businesses that were not able to do that all around her, all around Belize.”
The film takes viewers from the seafood markets and plush restaurants of Manhattan to the sprawling ponds of Belize’s shrimp farms and even into the breeding tanks where huge Pacific white shrimp mingle and mate to start the cycle of production.
In the documentary course, created nine years ago by Pace professor Dr. Maria Luskay, a mix of graduate and undergraduate students produce a short film each spring, spending January and February reporting and planning the shoot – which consumes much of their March spring “break” — and then editing and producing the final product.
Last year’s film, “The Life of An American Ambassador: The Netherlands,” won “Best in Category for Documentary” at the Indie Short Film Competition in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Helping with this year’s production was New York Times Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin, who is also the Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies.
The new film also involved innovative partnerships with schools of journalism and communication at the University of Colorado and The George Washington University, which shot interviews with experts in Boulder and Washington, D.C.
Explore the making of the film on the students’ blog, SustainableShrimp.blogspot.com and follow the team on Facebook and on Twitter through @got_shrimp.
There’s more background on this film and the Pace course in Patch.com.
For interviews with the student filmmakers, Dr. Luskay or Mr. Revkin, contact Cara Cea in the Pace University Office of Public Information. firstname.lastname@example.org, (914) 422-4268.