Towards sustainability in the shrimp industry


Shrimp trade plays an important role in international fish trade, representing about 18 percent of total world fish trade in value terms. In order to provide a comprehensive look at the shrimp industry, the INFOFISH World Shrimp Trade Conference was held in November 2019, in Bangkok, Thailand. In recognition of this evolving market environment for shrimp, “Modelling for Sustainability” was chosen as the theme of this conference. This special feature is based on the main findings of this conference and all mentioned figures are sourced from the papers presented during the event. 

Global trade of shrimp and prawns is estimated at USD 28 billions per year, coming mostly fromfarms in Asia and Latin America (mainly Ecuador) producing Penaeus vannamei. In general, globalshrimp production has been stable but serious disease outbreaks have caused widespread lossesto farms in countries such as India, Viet Nam, and Thailand. Increasingly stringent food safety regulations in major international markets imply that producers andtraders must ensure that shrimp on the plates of consumers is free from substances like antibiotics and additives. Failure to do so would result in rejected shipments and brand damage.

Global production and demand

The global farmed shrimp market continues to grow faster than other aquaculture species, with most shrimp being produced in Asia. The main market outside Asia is Latin America, with Ecuador recently overtaking Thailand to become the world’s fifth largest shrimp producer.

In Asia, intensification tends to mean higher density stocking at the expese of stringent controlsfrom farm protocols, leading to eutrophication, diseases, and susceptibility to climate change. There have been some positive advancements in biosecurity, and farmers are more aware of the needfor greater international cooperation in biosecurity protocols. Over time, Asia will see more farmsadopting culture systems with a high degree of control, disease-free postlarvae, recirculation of water,recycling of wastes, and antibiotic free production. Thailand’s shrimp farming sector has experiencedsevere disease outbreaks since the mid-1990s, but it is now one of the pioneer countries to promotebio-secure and probiotic shrimp farming.

From April to September 2019, Indian shrimp production (90% Penaeus vannamei) increasedto approximately 700 000 tonnes, contrary to expectation of a drop by 20-25%. Better yields perhectare, increased hatchery output, and expansion of culture areas were factors contributing to thisgrowth in production. A pilot certification programme for the production of antibiotic-free shrimp seedis due to be launched in the near future.

In Bangladesh, black tiger (P. monodon) takes up 71.5% of the total shrimp farming area in the countryand contributes more than 90% of the export earnings for farmed shrimp. The draft National ActionPlan proposes to set up 20 Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) monodon hatcheries, and incrementally increase production from traditional farms by using improved cultural practices with an average yield of 330 kg per hectare to 1 200 kg per hectare. International collaboration and investmentsare expected to enhance breeding technologies, promote organic black tiger markets, as well as develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) for diseasemanagement in black tiger farming.In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the biggest producer of farmed shrimp (vannamei) with over 65000 tonnes produced in 2018, followed by Iran (46 000 tonnes) and Egypt (7 000 tonnes). SaudiArabia is also the home of the world’s largest single biosecure Recirculating Aquaculture System(RAS) facility, and production is expected to reach 200 000 tonnes by 2025. 
Ecuador is expected to have harvested over 550 000 tonnes of shrimp in 2019, up from some 520 000 tonnes when compared to 2018. This figure is likely to rise in coming years as Ecuador continues to promote its shrimp as being highly sustainable, especially with its Sustainable ShrimpPartnership (SSP), a certification program guaranteeing zero use of antibiotics, full traceability and zero negative impact on the environment. 
Advances in disease management
Diseases are still a major problem for shrimp aquaculture, particularly in Asia and parts of LatinAmerica, and it seems that every few years, new strains of disease pop up, causing farmers toresort to antibiotics. However, antibiotic-free shrimp farming is doable throughout the culture cycle,with the most common and effective measures being proper waste management, microbiotamanagement, and use of probiotics. Excessive waste nutrients in culture systems are the mainculprit for accumulation of hazardous substances in water column and sediments, opportunistic growth of pathogenic organisms, stress to the shrimp, and diseases (approximately 60% of losses are caused by viral pathogens and 20% by bacterial pathogens). Efficient biosecurity is consideredthe most effective measure in preventing the entry of pathogenic microorganisms into the shrimpculture system.
Functional diets, prophylaxis, immunostimulants, and fermented feed also have good potential indisease management, as does the incorporation of ecological approaches. In the latter case, forexample, polyculture and integrated aquaculture understand that multiple species in the same culturesystem occupy different nutritional and spatial niches, and that they could be mutually beneficial to each other. In order to achieve sustainable production, shrimp farming must therefore be morescience-based, controlled, sustainable, and cost effective, while incorporating the proper protocolsfor nutrition, health and environment management.
In the event of disease, diagnostics need to be low cost, easy to use, and have a quick turnaround. Based on these requirements, companies and research institutes have been working on alternativesfor common diagnostic methods such as polymerase chain reaction, which is not able to test morethan three pathogens at a time. Mobile diagnostic kits can test for a wider range of diseases withina couple of hours. For instance, the Shrimp MultiPath, designed by CSIRO (Australia), detects 13 pathogens of commercial relevance in a single test. 
Despite increased awareness, antibiotic use is still widespread in the main shrimp-producing regionsof Asia. Biosensor technology was developed to easily measure parameters of interest in food safety. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is developing a Strategic Blueprint that will outlineplans to leverage technology in order to create a more digital, traceable and safer food system. The use of artificial intelligence has great potential in farm management, as real-time data collectionallows the system to predict diseases, reduce feed costs (real time alerts), and forecast market prices. 
Risk assessment and certification
Food fraud in fisheries remains a concern for a large part of the global shrimp industry. The EU28 has the highest incidence of fraud for imported seafood, including practices related to unapproved treatment and/or processing (30 percent), replacement, dilution and removal of products (30 percent) labelling (33 percent) and others (7 percent).
Global production of farmed shrimp is estimated to be growing at a rate of 6% annually, while shrimpis consistently one of the top protein choices for consumers. However, shrimp market trends are influenced by evolving consumer demand, particularly with regard to proof of sustainability in the global value chain. Moreover, the concept of sustainability has evolved to encompass social and human rights issues, as well as decent working conditions in the industry.

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