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January 5, 2007
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The History of Shrimp Farming in West Texas
By Granvil Treece
At one time, six shrimp farms in West Texas with almost 200 acres of ponds contributed significantly to the state's overall production of farm-raised shrimp. The challenge of operating in such a remote area, however, took its toll, and today only one farm remains.
In 1972, two Ward County, Texas, gravel pit operators, Hal Brown and Dean Phipps, asked the local county agent to help them explore the possibility of using saline ground water for aquaculture in some of their gravel pits.
In 1973 County Extension Agent Johnny Harris, with the assistance of Dr. James Davis and Dr. Jack Parker of Texas A&M University (both retired), stocked some shrimp in West Texas.
Early experiments were crude and little data were obtained-- other than survival rates, which indicated the biological feasibility of shrimp cultivation in West Texas.
Stocking continued and gradually a body of information was accumulated that supported commercial shrimp farming in West Texas.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s Vernon Holcomb, Jack Parker (not the Jack Parker mentioned above) and Charlie McKaskle all tried pilot-scale shrimp farms in West Texas. Holcomb's farm was in Stanton; Parker's in Crockett County near Iraan; and McKaskle's in Martin County. McKaskle produced commercial crops of shrimp in 1989 (810 pounds per acre) and 1990 (2,166 pounds per acre). The 1990 crop was from 4.2 acres of ponds, which yielded 9,100 pounds of shrimp. The farms closed for different reasons. Holcomb's aquifer dried up during a drought year. Parker's farm produced an average of 1,068 pounds per acre in 1989, but could not get viable seedstock the following year and the bank took the farm.
In 1991, Durwood Dugger conducted a feasibility study for the Pecos County Water District No. 3 entitled "The Feasibility of Aquaculture in Pecos County and Far West Texas".
In July 1992, Texas A&M University (TAMU), the Texas General Land Office, and Pecos County Water District No. 3 jointly opened a R&D Center in Imperial, Texas. Redfish and shrimp were grown at a pilot facility consisting of six, one-acre ponds. The R&D facility had some problems sealing its ponds the first year, but produced 1,140 pounds of shrimp. This pilot helped pave the way for a commercial group (Triton) from Florida to try shrimp farming in West Texas. In 1993 and 1994, Triton produced commercial crops of shrimp, but decided to sell the farm. C.E. Selinger of Odessa and a group from India purchased the farm from Triton and reopened it as Pecos River Aquaculture in 2001. Currently, the farm is leased, but not in production.
Production averages from the various farms in West Texas ranged from 3,000 to 4,500 pounds per acre. The highest production was with the Super Shrimp (Litopenaeus stylirostris) in 1996 at the Regal Farm, where 6,000 pounds per acre were produced.
The aquifer used by shrimp farms in the Imperial area is the Cenozoic Alluvium, water remaining from the Permian Sea. Salinity varies from 10 parts per thousand to 15 ppt. There are no fresh water zones in the area, and no discharge water leaves any farm. The water is too salty for agricultural uses. Red clay soils can be found in the area for lining ponds.
Bart Reid and Permian Sea Organics
Over the years, Bart Reid has played a pioneering role in West Texas shrimp farming, and today his farm in Imperial, Permian Sea Organics (formerly Permian Sea Shrimp Company), is the last of the shrimp farms. Reid has 64 surface acres of ponds, filled with a combination of tap and irrigation water from Pecos County Water District #3 and water from the aquifer. He is one of two shrimp farms in the USA that can sell USDA Certified Organic Shrimp.
In 2005, Reid stocked 20 acres and produced 20,000 pounds of shrimp. He stocked at low densities and raised the shrimp organically, feeding only 24 thousand pounds of feed, while the shrimp utilized the natural productivity in the ponds for additional nutrition. The survival for the 2005 crop was 70%.
Reid avoids chemicals and antibiotics, does not crowd his shrimp and uses organic feed. Marty Mesh, executive director of Florida Organic Growers (FOG) in Gainesville, Florida, said FOG certified the farm as "USDA Organic" because Reid followed all the rules. Reid thinks the "organic" label will help his products compete with the foreign shrimp flooding into the United States from Asia and Latin America. He says he can charge $5 a pound wholesale for his organic shrimp, compared with $2 for conventional shrimp.
Groundwater quantities are still unknown in West Texas and are a source of uncertainty to any operating farm. However, marketing the shrimp appears to be the biggest uncertainty and one of the biggest challenges. Some of the shrimp can be sold fresh at harvest to local markets, but that market is easily saturated. The organic certification of the shrimp opens up new markets as far away as California. Reid also sells his shrimp over the Internet or directly from his shrimp store and restaurant in Imperial.
If you have Google Earth (free, but you must download it from Google's website) installed on your computer, you can view Permian Sea Organics at latitude 31°, 16', 16.93" N; longitude 102°, 40', 48.35"W.
Information: For a list of West Texas saline groundwater references, contact Granvil Treece, Aquaculture Specialist, Texas A&M University, Sea Grant College Program, 2700 Earl Rudder Freeway South, Suite 1800, College Station, Texas 77845 USA (phone 979-845-7527, fax 979-845-7525, email firstname.lastname@example.org, website http://texas-sea-grant.tamu.edu).
Source: Texas Aquaculture Association Website (http://www.texasaquaculture.org/index.html). Update on Inland Shrimp Farming in West Texas (http://www.texasaquaculture.org/id227.htm). Granvil Treece. Site visit on September 13, 2006.
In 1996, a 19,000-hectare shrimp farm was proposed for the Rufiji River Delta, just south of Dar es Salaam. Touted as the largest shrimp farm in the world, it was to be located in a mangrove conservation area. In 1998, the Tanzanian government granted the permits for the farm. Then the Tanzanian and international environmental communities sprang into action. After two years of public protest, investigations and a lawsuit brought by the Lawyers' Environmental Association of Tanzania, the project was halted. The experience resulted in the development of a national investors guide for mariculture that favors small to medium-sized shrimp farms, an increased level of oversight and routine monitoring.
In 2005, a commercial shrimp hatchery (Alpha Group, Ltd.) received permits to begin operations on Mafia Island, a large coastal island about 125 kilometers southeast of Dar es Salaam, with a target production of 50 million postlarvae (Penaeus monodon) a year. It was designed to supply seedstock to 112 hectares of ponds on the island. Although there are strong markets for shrimp in Tanzania, particularly within the tourism industry, most of the Alpha Group's shrimp production will be exported.
Source: World Aquaculture (the quarterly magazine of the World Aquaculture Society, http://www.was.org). Editor-in-Chief, Robert Stickney. Aquaculture in Tanzania. Michael A. Rice, Aviti J. Mmochi, Lugazo Zuberi and Rebecca M. Savoie. Volume 37, Number 4, Page 50, December 2006.
Prices to Soar
Biosecurity Australia has recommended that the Federal Government ban the import of raw, frozen shrimp and that it implement costly new quarantine measures for processed shrimp. The price of shrimp in Australia will probably skyrocket if the new import regulations are adopted.
Harry Peters, chairman of the Seafood Importers Association of Australia, said that if the regulations were adopted, shrimp would become the food story of the year in Australia in 2007. On December 26, 2006, cooked shrimp were selling for $16 to $35 a kilo at some seafood stores in Perth, Western Australia. Peters said the price would likely jump to between $55 and $78 a kilo when the new measures were activated in 2007.
He said: "The controls would effectively prevent the importation of frozen raw shrimp and add such onerous testing costs to processed shrimp that volumes would be dramatically reduced and prices would certainly rise significantly. In fact, with only one or two laboratories capable of doing the tests, trade would cease within weeks."
Enjoy your prawns this holiday, says Hope Kearney, a shrimp importer in Sydney, New South Wales, because next year you may not be able to afford them. Kearney said seafood lovers have yet to realize how their affair with shrimp will be affected by import regulations being considered by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service.
Louis Lynch, owner of Seafresh Fish Markets, a retail chain in Perth, Western Australia, said the changes would hurt consumers and retailers. "With these restrictions you'd be taking an enormous amount of product out of the marketplace," he said. "Prices would really go through the roof."
Scott Walter, chairman Australian Prawn Farmers Association, said the proposed regulations would be beneficial because they would protect farmed and wild shrimp in Australia from exotic shrimp viruses.
Sources: 1. TheWest.com.au. Prawn price could soar with import changes (http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=31&ContentID=17190). Ronan O'Connell. December 27, 2006. 2. The Sydney Morning Herald. Prawn excuses raw, say traders (http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/prawn-excuses-raw-say-traders/2006/12/25/1166895241043.html). Steve Meacham. December 26, 2006.
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah
On December 21, 2006, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, visited departments and projects within the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, which actively promotes, facilitates and accelerates economic diversity in Brunei.
He visited a forestry research center, a manufacturing plant, some traditional farms--and a 495-hectare shrimp farming project, which hopes to produce 2,500 metric tons a year by 2009. The Fisheries Department provides all the infrastructure (roads, power, water supply, telecommunication and fencing) for the project and entrepreneurs lease the ponds. The seawater supply system is currently being constructed and is expected to be completed in July 2007 at a cost of $7.5 million.
Sources: 1. Borneo Bulletin. MIPR receives Crown Prince (http://www.brunei-online.com/bb/fri/dec22h26.htm). Liza Mohd and Sonia K. December 22, 2006.
HQ Sustainable Maritime Industries, Inc.
On December 20, 2006, HQ Sustainable Maritime Industries, Inc., which farms tilapia and some shrimp, broke ground on an organic, aquatic feed mill on Hainan Island. It will purchase nongenetically modified corn and soy from China and elsewhere. Scheduled for completion by the fourth quarter of 2007, it will produce approximately 100,000 tons of organic feed a year, mostly for tilapia, but also for other finfish and shrimp. The feed mill will serve HQSM's 3,294 acres of cooperative farms. The farms will be required to purchase feed from HQSM's mill and to sell their production to HQSM's processing plant.
Norbert Sporns, CEO of HQSM, said, "As the world grows more dependent on aquaculture for safe food...we are proud to be selected to assist the Aquaculture Certification Council in vetting and rolling out the Best Aquaculture Practices."
HQSM holds HACCP certification from the USA/FDA and the "Code Assignment of Quality" from the European Union, giving it access to those markets. It owns a nutraceuticals and health products company, which is HACCP certified, and produces and sells products subject to stringent laboratory tests certified by China's Ministry of Health. The plant produces nutraceuticals that are used in its feeds. In addition to its headquarters in Seattle, Washington, USA, HQSM has offices in Haikou, Hainan (http://www.hqfish.com).
Information: Norbert Sporns (phone 206-621-9888, fax 206-621-0318).
Media Relations: Daniel Stepanek (phone 212-896-1202, fax 212-697-0910).
Source: MarketWire.com. HQSM Breaks Ground on Organic Feed Mill Hainan, China/100,000-Ton-Per-Year Facility Completion Expected by Q4 2007 (http://www.marketwire.com/mw/release_html_b1?release_id=197016). December 20, 2006.
Official Shrimp Production in 2006
In 2006, Indonesia's production of farmed shrimp jumped 18.5%, to 327,260 metric tons.
Source: Seafood.com (an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service). Indonesia's shrimp and seaweed production drive 21 percent aquaculture growth. Ken Coons. Editor and Publisher, John Sackton (phone 781-861-1441, email email@example.com). December 28, 2006.
French Oil Company Blows the Whistle on Shrimp Farming
On the island of Borneo, in the province of East Kalimantan, French oil giant Total dominates the business community in the immense Mahakam Delta, where it extracts natural gas. A study financed by Total shows that shrimp farmers have caused an ecological disaster in the Delta. More than 800 square kilometers (300 square miles) of mangroves have been converted into shrimp ponds, resulting in water pollution, salinization and the general degradation of the environment.
During the 1997/1998 Asian financial crisis, the Indonesian rupiah plunged to a quarter of its value, so shrimp farms, which export for dollars, suddenly became very profitable. Shrimp farmers and thousands of workers from Java and Sulawesi moved into the Mahakam Delta and developed shrimp farms. "Since the economic crisis of the years 1997/1998 people have been cutting all the mangrove, opening new shrimp ponds, without any restrictions or law enforcement," said Muhammad Najib, in charge of environmental problems for Total.
"The productivity of shrimp farming has fallen because of the damage caused to the natural environment," said Bahteramsyah, environmental official for the Kutai Kartanegara district. He estimates only 20 percent of the original mangrove swamp remains. Total's activities in the Delta have nothing to do with this looming disaster but the oil giant fears it will bear the brunt of the social consequences because of its high profile in the region.
Total president director Philippe Armand says, "We fear that we will be totally wrongly accused of being the source of the problem." Total has decided to take the initiative and has earmarked two million dollars over five years to promote sustainable management of the Mahakam Delta.
The company has replanted more than three million mangrove seedlings, organized a symposium on the risks posed by shrimp farming, and it is training the villagers in more environmentally friendly methods of shrimp farming.
If you have Google Earth (a free download from Google), you can view the farms at latitude 0°45'57.66"S; longitude 117°26'13.75"E.
Source: BruneiDirect.com. Tiny Shrimps Causing Big Problems (http://www.brudirect.com/DailyInfo/News/Archive/Dec06/261206/nite02.htm). December 26, 2006.
In 2006, 1,200 hectares of shrimp farms around the southern port city of Chabahar on the Iran/Pakistan border produced 2,500 tons of shrimp, up 40% from last year. In 2008, 1,500 more hectares will come on stream. All the shrimp is destined for export markets.
Source: GROWfish (Gippsland Aquaculture Industry Network, Inc., http://www.growfish.com.au/default.asp). GROWfish eNewsletter (firstname.lastname@example.org). Chabahar shrimp production up 40% (http://www.growfish.com.au/content.asp?contentid=8109). December 12, 2006.
Norwegian Lobster Farm, located near the city of Stavanger on the island Kvitsøy, produces juvenile lobsters for sea ranching and for stocking lobster farms. It also produces some plate-size (20 centimeter) lobsters for restaurants and sells technology and equipment for lobster farming.
Information: Asbjørn Drengstig, Tormod Drengstig, Ivar Kollsgård and Rudolf Svensen, Norwegian Lobster Farm AS, Postboks 391, 4067 Stavanger, Norway (phone 47-51-32-59-00, fax 47-51-32-59-01, email email@example.com).
Source: Norwegian Lobster Farm AS Webpage (http://www.norwegian-lobster-farm.com/about.htm). December 27, 2006.
Strong Currency Hurts Shrimp Farmers
"The baht's strength has significantly hurt Thai people, especially farmers who are the majority of the population," said Surapon Vongvadhanaroj, chief executive officer of Surapon Foods, Pcl., Thailand's largest shrimp exporter. "We can't compete with Vietnam, China and India as long as our currency is gaining at twice the pace of those countries."
Source: Bloomberg.com. Thai Military Government Backs Down; Investors Revolt (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aAotzS4ejBVo&refer=home). Lee J. Miller. December 20, 2006.
California--Shrimp News International
If you missed the two Free News reports over the holidays (December 22 and 29, 2006) , you can check them out here.
Source: Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, January 4, 2007.
Mississippi--Gulf Coast Research Laboratory
The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory will open its new marine aquaculture visitor center at Cedar Point in the fall of 2007, the first of six buildings on a 225-acre campus that will eventually house breeding programs for shrimp, blue crabs, red snapper, spotted sea trout and striped bass.
Source: SunHerald.com. A look ahead at South Mississippi's environment (http://www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/business/16309990.htmResources). Mike Keller. December 24, 2006.
Missouri--Global Aquacultue Alliance
St. Louis...The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), an international trade association dedicated to advancing environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture worldwide, has announced the selection of Wally Stevens as Executive Director, effective immediately.
Stevens will fill the position left vacant by the resignation of Jim Hirt.
Stevens most recently served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Slade Gorton and Company, a leading seafood distribution and marketing company headquartered in Boston, USA, a position he held for 16 years before retiring in 2006. Prior to joining Slade Gorton, Stevens was President of Ocean Products Inc., an integrated salmon aquaculture business based in Maine, USA. Among his many accomplishments, Stevens served as Chairman of the National Fisheries Institute, where he is credited with the creation of the successful Future Leaders Program.
Information: George Chamberlain, Global Aquaculture Alliance, 5661 Telegraph Road. Suite 3A, St. Louis, MO 63129 USA (phone 314-293-5500, email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Source: Global Aquaculture Alliance. News Release. Wally Stevens Selected Executive Director of GAA. January 5, 2007.
On December 27, 2006, the Vietnam Ministry of Trade announced that the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare would begin inspecting 100% of the raw frozen shrimp from Vietnam. Recently, Japan discovered chloramphenicol residues in frozen shrimp exported by the Nam Can Seafood Import/Export Company in Ca Mau Province. The director of a Vietnam exporting company said that in the past, it took him only 3-5 days to get customs clearance for a batch of goods. Now, he says, it will take 45 days.
Source: VietnamNetBridge. Japan begins inspecting 100% of Vietnam-sourced shrimp (http://english.vietnamnet.vn/biz/2006/12/648578/). Ha Yen. December 28, 2006.
Halts Wild-Caught Shrimp Exports to Japan
The Shrimp Sub-Committee of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) has sent a dispatch to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announcing that Vietnam would stop exporting wild-caught shrimp to Japan because it was the wild-caught shrimp that contained antibiotic residues.
Source: VietNamNetBridge. Vietnam halts exporting sea shrimp to Japan (http://english.vietnamnet.vn/biz/2006/12/648907). Tuoi Tre. December 29, 2006.
Click here for previous Free News reports in 2006