Camarón de vega
Meadow shrimp or camerón de vega (Parastacus pugnax or camarón de tierra) are an endemic species found along the Chilean coast, from Valparaiso until the Taitao peninsula.
As inferred by its name, this shrimp lives in freshwater aquifers in semi-swampy areas, known as vegas or hualves, inside which it creates interconnected tunnels that it uses as a burrow. These tunnels can be as deep as 4 metres.
This crustacean can be found in various regions, including the area surrounding the city of Cabrero in the Bio-Bio region, where the soil is very sandy. The camarón de vega plays an important role in Chilean cuisine: there is no real commercialisation given that it is harvested predominately for self-consumption, or sold informally by farmers along the road, but it is considered a good source of nutrition for many poor families. Moreover, in certain areas, large ""Camaronadas"" festivals are organised, during which the meadow shrimp are cooked, or competitions are organised to award the most beautiful or largest etc. a prize. It is said that the largest shrimp are harvested during the month of August, while from September onwards they are left alone to given them time to reproduce.
They are also used as bait to fish for salmon and are traditionally cooked in a broth. The prawns are boiled until turning an intense red colour, while vegetables, aromatic herbs, chilli and various spices are also added to the broth. Depending on the area and culinary traditions, a beaten egg or roasted wheat flour can also be added.
This species has seen a rapid decline in population over the years due to the deterioration of its natural habitat, following the deforestation and abusive use of chemical products in farming lands. The fact that there are no special laws regulating harvesting and prohibiting it during the reproduction season, exposes this crustacean to a high risk of extinction.