Hawaii is the world’s shrimp-breeding capital

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Hawaii is the world’s shrimp-breeding capital

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Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the US – the average American eats more than four pounds a year. But nearly all of it is imported and most of that farm-raised in Asia and South America. Those are well-known facts. What’s less well-known is that most of the world’s farmed shrimp can trace their genes back to Hawaii.

1. These tiny baby shrimp, known as PL in the industry, are ready to stock in fishponds. 2 Shrimp larva. 3. Mature shrimp ready for a kitchen or restaurant. Photos: Jim Wyban

Wild-caught parent shrimp were placed under ideal conditions of diet, temperature and recurring light-and-dark cycles, and they spawned fertilized eggs. After hatching, the larval shrimp could be reared in large tanks where they were fed cultured marine microalgae and live artemia (also called brine shrimp). After three weeks of physical transformations, PL were harvested and could be stocked into ponds. Removing the PL-supply bottleneck created the conditions for a worldwide expansion of shrimp farming.

In the early 1980s, I was hired by Oceanic Institute to manage a large research project to help develop shrimp farming in the US. Even then, shrimp was America’s No. 1 seafood, but shrimp imports cost more than $2 billion a year. It was reasoned that an American shrimp-fanning industry could replace those imports, create rural jobs and keep a lot of dollars from going overseas.

At OI, my colleagues and l were tasked with identifying obstacles to a US. shrimp-farming industry. When we met with shrimp farmers in Hawaii, Texas and South Carolina, consistent problems emerged. Serious disease problems prevented reliable production problems that usually started at the hatchery stage, because wild broodstock often carried disease. Similar problems had been solved in other animal production systems, with pigs, chickens and cattle, so we set out to develop disease-free shrimp. In collaboration with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the University of Arizona, we developed a shrimp that we called SPF (specific pathogen free) to reflect the quarantine and certification process through which they passed. Our first SPF shrimp were born in Kona in 1990.

In 1997, a group from Taiwan imported the first batch of SPF broodstock to Asia. Based on excellent early results, the Taiwan industry rapidly adopted SPF PL and the demand for Hawaii SPF broodstock boomed. In 1999, the success story of using Hawaii’s SPF broodstock reached the front page of Taiwan’s national newspaper. Soon, the use of SPF broodstock spread to China, and then to Thailand and Indonesia.

Our SPF shrimp were Pacific white shrimp, a species native to the Americas. In just a few years, these shrimp had displaced the black tiger shrimp, a species native to Asia, as the mainstay of Asia’s shrimp farms. The economic impact of this change in broodstock was huge. In 1998, when Hawaii SPF began shipping to Asia, annual farmed-shrimp production worldwide was 700,000 metric tons. By 2010, after most of Asia had switched to farming SPF shrimp, worldwide production had grown to 3.5 million metric tons – a five-fold increase in 12 years.

In Hawaii, several companies were formed to supply broodstock to meet Asia’s growing demand. Several groups worked on breeding their shrimp for improved performance, but, at High Health Aquaculture, we focused on breeding shrimp for resistance to Taura virus though many experts told us it was an impossible goal. Several years after Taura had devastated our commercial trial in Ecuador, it reached the US and devastated domestic shrimp farms.

We worked hard at our Kona farm to find a solution. Our method was to create a batch of different families, all of the same age. The families were grown in separate tanks until they grew to one gram in weight. Samples of each family were then given a distinct color or combination of colors with injections of a liquid plastic material. The tagged families were shipped to professor Don Lightner’s pathology laboratory at the University of Arizona’s Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology.

Hawaii’s export of baby shrimp

In 2012, we sold our company, HHA to an Asian multinational, Shrimp Improvement Systems (SIS). That company now makes Kona its world production headquarters and hugely expanded on our business with a $10 million investment.

SPF shrimp are the foundation of the global shrimp industry and Hawaii is both the home of SPF breeding technology and its world supply leader. The many benefits to the industry of using SPF shrimp include greatly reduced disease, less use of antibiotics and ending the practice of capturing wild animals for seedstock.

See more at http://www.hawaiibusiness.com/hawaii-is-the-worlds-shrimp-breeding-capital/

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