Shrimp farming: 'good time to learn from SE Asia's mistakes'

Disease and market prices are the two main problems in shrimp farming, and as India is poised to be the largest shrimp producer after China, it is a good time to learn from the mistakes other Southeast Asian countries made when they were on top of the game about five years ago, experts said at a high-profile marine sector conference here on Monday.

Speakers at ‘Advances and Innovations in Shrimp Farming’ at the fourth edition of Aqua Aquaria India, hosted by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), suggested that at a time when ‘disease happens in combination’, the way forward in aquaculture is through indoor, totally controlled environments.

“Apart from viruses, we now have to deal with an increase in bacterial infections caused by the warming of oceans. They are harder to control because they do not need animal carriers and can pass through the ocean currents,” said Robins McIntosh, a Thailand-based researcher in the field for three decades. “Aquaculture is about clean water. New technologies must be backed by quality control and surveillance.” McIntosh pointed out that when production was hit in Thailand in 2011, it was technology that brought it up again.

While India is expected to produce 5 lakh metric tonnes of shrimp in 2017, the average rate of farm produce survival is only 50%. Productivity is reducing year-on-year, with the produce being hit by white spot syndrome, which is the single-largest pathogen affecting shrimp farming in India, he said. “This is going to be an era of responsible aquaculture,” said S Chandrasekhar, Area Manager, India and South Asia, INVE Aquaculture, Thailand. “Nursery rearing reduces pathogens. Shrimps are more toxin-resistant and give rise to larger harvests. Thailand and Mexico have reaped the benefits of nursery farming; India could do the same.”

Subsidy scheme
Tapping into the huge potential of ornamental fishery as a livelihood option and foreign exchange earner, the MPEDA has launched a subsidy scheme for the setting up of breeding units of colourful aquarium fishes and marketing societies in various states to facilitate their export. Through the new Ornamental Fish Assistance Scheme, the MPEDA provides subsidy for the ornamental fishery to registered self-help groups and marketing societies. Financial assistance is provided at 25% of the total investment, subject to a maximum of Rs 10 lakh.

“Through its subsidy schemes, the MPEDA has established ornamental fish breeding units in states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh,” MPEDA Chairman Dr A Jayathilak. In 2015-16, the MPEDA assisted 22 units with a financial involvement of Rs 95.01 lakh. “These units are functioning well and contributing to favourable exports from their units,” he added.

He said the MPEDA also launched a ‘Green Certification’ scheme, the first of its kind for freshwater ornamental fishery to curb the harmful impact of wild capture of aquarium fishes and help maintain the environmental and economic sustainability. It has also successfully completed a project on breeding techniques of indigenous fresh water species of the Western Ghats. “The scheme will help reduce dependence on wild stocks and ensure the fish collection is done in tune with the principles of ecosystem management,” Dr Jayathilak said.

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