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AN EARLIER FAO MANUAL on freshwater prawn culture was written by the former Co-Managers of the UNDP/FAO Programme for the Expansion of Freshwater Prawn Farming in Thailand, Michael New and Somsak Singholka, which was based substantially on their personal experience. The English version was issued in 1982 (New and Singholka, 1982) and FAO published it in Spanish in 1984 and in French in 1985. A minor revision of the English edition was made when it was reprinted in 1985. With the support of local funding, the manual was also translated and published in Vietnamese in 1990, in Farsi in 1991, and in Hindi in 1996. A number of freshwater prawn manuals by other authors, which were published in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish between 1985 and 1993, are listed in a review of the history of freshwater prawn farming by New (2000a). Many technological advances were made in freshwater prawn culture in the final two decades of the 20th century, and a number of other FAO manuals on general but relevant aquacultural topics were issued during that period (e.g. FAO 1981, 1985, 1988, 1989b, 1992a, 1992b, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998; Lavens and Sorgeloos 1996; Tave 1996, 1999; Moretti, Pedini Fernandez-Criado, Cittolin and Guidastri 1999).

In the two decades since the original FAO freshwater prawn manual was published, production from the farming of Macrobrachium rosenbergii has expanded considerably, mainly in Asia but also in South and North America. Thai farmed freshwater prawn production expanded from less than 250 mt in 1979 (New, Singholka and Vorasayan 1982) to about 3 100 mt in 1984 (FAO 1989a). In 1984, the total global production of farmed Macrobrachium rosenbergii was only about 5 000 mt (FAO 1989a). By 2000, official FAO data indicate that global production of M. rosenbergii had risen to nearly 119 000 mt, to which Thailand contributed 3 700 mt (FAO 2002). China, which introduced this species in 1976 (New 2000b), produced over 97 000 mt in 2000. The official FAO production statistics for this species are underestimates, because some countries have not yet disaggregated their production from more general statistical categories such as ‘freshwater prawns and shrimps nei*’ or ‘freshwater crustaceans nei*’. In addition, several other freshwater prawn species are now cultured in pilot or full commercial scale, including M. amazonicum, M. malcolmsonii and M. nipponense (Kutty, Herman and Le Menn 2000) but production data for these species is not yet reported to FAO. Farmed production of M. nipponense in China was estimated to be 100 000 mt in 2000 (Miao and Ge 2002), confirming a forecast that total annual production of all freshwater prawn species would reach 200 000 mt early in the new millennium (New 2000a). Some believe that freshwater prawn farming may be more sustainable than marine shrimp farming (New, D’Abramo, Valenti and Singholka 2000).

This renewed interest in freshwater prawn farming provided the stimulus for the preparation of a new FAO manual on the topic. In preparing this manual, the author has drawn heavily on information gained during the editing of a recent academic book on the topic (New and Valenti 2000). The author and the FAO Fisheries Department hope that it will prove useful in further encouraging the culture of freshwater prawns. Translations of the new manual into Arabic, Chinese, French and Spanish will be issued in 2002-2003.

* not elsewhere included

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