COURTESY OCEANIC INSTITUTE
The Pacific white shrimp has shown gains in size and disease resistance through selective breeding programs at the Oceanic Institute in Waimanalo. CLICK FOR LARGE
Isle institute succeeds in shrimp breeding
The Oceanic Institute is focusing on Pacific white shrimp
RESEARCHERS at the Oceanic Institute at Makapuu are reporting dramatic success in breeding shrimp to increase their size and resistance to disease.
The findings spell good news for Hawaii's $2.8 million shrimp farm business, and particularly for the highly popular penaeid family of shrimp, a $9.7 billion industry worldwide, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
The viability of seafood farms has assumed added urgency in the last 15 years with the decline of ocean fisheries. Shrimp researchers are now aiming for the same sort of success in selective breeding that was achieved with chickens and cattle during the last half-century.
The institute produces 120,000 Pacific white shrimp per year by raising 500 shrimp from each of 240 genetically distinct families, says program director Shaun Moss.
How do they tell one family from another?
By implanting a tag in each critter.
"It's a labor of love," Moss says. "Each shrimp is picked up and injected a color tag that can be seen under the cuticle."
This family-based selective breeding program has increased the weight of the harvested shrimp by 8.3 percent per generation over three generations, Moss says. Additionally, the survival rate for the farm-raised shrimp has improved by 7.9 percent per generation.
COURTESY OCEANIC INSTITUTE
An identification marker, called a visible implant elastomer tag, is injected into a shrimp so that genetically distinct families can be tracked for breeding. CLICK FOR LARGE
Moss will present his findings in San Francisco today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His presentation is among several in a three-hour symposium on technological advances toward sustainable fisheries.
Shrimp, the top-selling seafood in America, increasingly arrives on dinner plates from aquaculture farms, but not all farmers take the time and costly trouble to breed them for size and the ability to thrive in an artificial pond.
Moss's research indicates such efforts are worthwhile.
Historically, shrimp farmers have relied on the capture of wild shrimp to stock their ponds, but that might help deplete wild shrimp populations and also could introduce diseases.
Taura syndrome virus has proved particularly devastating to the Pacific white shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei.
Researchers and commercial breeders selecting shrimp for resistance to the virus have developed families that show survival rates of greater than 90 percent when exposed to the infection through food, Moss says.
That has allowed Pacific white shrimp stocks to be designated as healthy or, in the parlance of the industry, "specific pathogen free."
As a result, white shrimp surpassed giant tiger prawns as the most commonly cultured shrimp species in the world. From 2000 to 2004, farmed white shrimp increased 854 percent by metric ton while the farmed tiger prawn crop increased 14 percent, Moss reports.
"Hawaii has played quite a significant role in this shift," he says.
But shrimp breeding programs need to be managed carefully to avoid inbreeding, Moss cautions.
The Oceanic Institute, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Hawaii Pacific University, specializes in marine aquaculture, coastal resource management and biotechnology. It offers surplus virus-resistant white shrimp to various farms around Hawaii, recently including Kona Bay Marine Resources in Kailua-Kona; Shrimp Production Hawaii in Kapalama; Ming Dynasty Fish & Shrimp Co. in Kahuku; High Health Hawaii Aquaculture in Kurtistown, Big Island; Molokai Sea Farms in Kaunakakai; and farms in Florida and on Guam.
Farmed shrimp used for food accounted for $2.8 million in sales in Hawaii in 2005, the latest year available, up from $2.25 million the year before, according to the state Department of Agriculture.