There are many environmental and socio-economic concerns about the shrimp aquaculture industry. This study, based on interviews, direct observations and literature reviews, shows that the Indian hatchery industry is heavily dependent upon the continuous support of natural resources and ecosystem services generated by marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. The mangrove ecosystem support area (‘ecological footprint’) needed to supply the hatcheries with Penaeus monodon shrimp broodstock, and the aquaculture grow-out ponds with postlarvae, exemplify the dependence on external ecosystems. Each hectare of mangrove in the Godavari River delta generated an annual fisheries catch of 0.8–1.5 P. monodon spawners (gravid females), valued at US$ 92–184. The entire Godavari mangrove delta had a partial gross economic value of US$ 3.0–6.0 million per year for the provision of shrimp spawners alone. The average hatchery, producing 75 million postlarvae annually, had an ecological footprint of 534 ha mangrove for the life-support input of shrimp spawners. The ecological footprint of intensive shrimp ponds was up to 11 times the pond area for postlarval input alone. The shrimp ponds in the State of Andhra Pradesh needed 35 000–138 000 ha of mangroves to satisfy the spawner requirement to hatcheries, and this implied a need to appropriate mangroves in other regions. Hatcheries were prepared to pay up to US$ 2000 for a single shrimp spawner, which also illustrated that the mangrove support areas regionally available were too small. Other concerns about the industry are the net loss of employment if hatcheries replace wild postlarvae collection, the extensive use of groundwater creating direct resource-use conflicts, by-catch problems in broodstock fisheries, and pollution by effluents. The risk of hatcheries introducing, amplifying and propagating disease affecting both cultured organisms and wild biota is another concern that can, and should, be addressed.