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Friday, July 31, 2009

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Cheap Shot at Thai Shrimp Farming



When I first saw the cover of Cheap at my local Barnes and Noble bookstore, I quickly checked the index to make sure I wasn’t mentioned.  Nothing on me—but shrimp got six pages!


The book is based on the questionable premise that inexpensive goods and bargain prices are ruining the world.  Author Ellen Ruppel Shell uses Thai farmed shrimp as an example of a product that is cheap and contributes to the destruction of the environment and the lives of people.  To make her point, she digs up every piece of bad news on Thai shrimp farming that she can find, all that stuff that was originally published by the environmental community, about antibiotics, mangroves and labor problems.  Much of it is outdated information that has recycled through the environmental community for years.  She chooses isolated incidents to make her points and completely overlooks the progress and excellence of the Thai shrimp farming industry.


Shell says nothing about the accomplishments of the Thai shrimp farming industry.  Nothing about how Thailand has ended the use of antibiotics.  Nothing about the farmers moving up and out of the mangroves.  Nothing about the environmental friendly farming techniques that the industry has adopted.  Nothing about Thailand’s farm certification program.  Nothing about the traceability of Thai shrimp.  Nothing about the cleanliness of the shrimp product.  Nothing about its superior rating in international markets.


That’s bad reporting folks.  After reading what Shell had to say about Thai shrimp farming, I did some spot reading in other chapters and then set her book aside.


From her five or six pages on the Thai shrimp industry, here are some of her most ridiculous statements.  The bolds and italics are mine.


“White shrimp tend to be small, but tigers are the largest shrimp on record, some behemoths weighing in at just under three ounces each.”


The record is closer to 16 ounces!


“Under the best conditions, these ponds are well tended, adequately monitored, and not too tightly packed.  More typically, the ponds are dangerously overcrowded and indifferently managed, plagued by overfeeding, plankton blooms and inadequate water circulation.  Shrimp are carnivorous and require feed—usually fish meal—in amounts more than double their adult weight.”


Almost everything in this short paragraph is inaccurate.


“Beneath the smell lurks disease: As with any creatures in extremely crowded and filthy conditions, farmed shrimp are highly susceptible to infection, and despite massive inputs of antibiotics, many sicken and die.  As a result, roughly half of the more than one million acres of shrimp farms lie abandoned.  Meanwhile, the land is permanently contaminated.”


Shrimp ponds don’t smell, although under certain conditions, they can develop odor problems.  The rest of the paragraph distorts and exaggerates the reality of shrimp farming in Thailand.


“Likewise, anyone who has eaten ocean or freshwater shrimp caught wild knows that it shares little in common with its factory-farmed step-cousins.  Wild-caught shrimp has a firm texture and a bracing, briny taste brought on by clean living.  There is no whiff or antibiotic or pesticide residue, and no trail of human misery behind it.  Shrimp bred in crowded polluted ponds is slippery, even slimy, with a flat muddy taste that tells us all we need to know about its past.”


This is a case of a journalist not doing her job.  Maybe there’s some legal liability here, too.


Video: For a one-minute video advertising Cheap, click here.  You’ll be taken to the Amazon.com page where Cheap is being sold.  Scroll down the page until you see the map of the Unites States set against a yellow background.  Click on the triangle under the map to see the video.


Sources: 1. Cheap/The High Cost of Discount Culture (Chapter Eight.  Good Eats.  Pages 172 to 177 and page 183).  Ellen Ruppel Shell.  The Penguin Press (296 Pages, $25.95).  New York.  2009.  2. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International.  July 30, 2009.


INVE Proves That Its Frippak Products Are Not the Cause of Hatchery Mortalities in Vietnam


On July 11, 2009, the Vietnam News Agency reported that one of INVE’s larval feeds was the probable cause of mortalities at some shrimp hatcheries in the Mekong Delta.


On July 15, 2009, Suzi Fraser Dominy, editor of Aquafeed.com, reported that the story from the Vietnam News Agency was not accurate.


First, the Vietnam News Agency Story


In April 2009, mass mortalities of tiger shrimp postlarvae occurred at 16 hatcheries in Dong Hai District of Bac Lieu Province and Dam Doi District in neighboring Ca Mau Province.


Phan Huu Duc, owner of Duc Dung Farm in Ganh Hao Township of Dong Hai District, said he lost 40 million postlarvae, estimating his loss at $16,000.  “It can be only because of the food.  My tiger shrimp had no sign of diseases,” said Phan Huu Duc, who has been using INVE’s Frippak Feeds for more than 10 years, claiming the product was the most effective food for his shrimp and that there was no suitable substitute for it.


Inspectors of Bac Lieu Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the province’s police unit have started investigations into the cause of the mass mortalities.


Samples of Frippak’s products from all the farms have been sent to the Ministry of Public Security for testing, according to Do Xuan Manh, vice head of the Economic Security Unit of Bac Lieu Police.


Ho Van Chien, technical manager for Frippak in Ho Chi Minh City, said the company would cooperate with efforts to find answers, while assuring the quality of his company’s products, sold at some 100 outlets from central Da Nang City in central Vietnam to Ca Mau Province in the Mekong Delta.


The Aquafeed.com Story


Philippe Léger, Business Unit Manager at INVE AQUACULTURE, the company that owns and markets the Frippak brand, told Aquafeed.com:


“The report [above] is a painful example on how premature releases of information/disinformation may harm the good name and fame of companies.”


According to Léger, on April 29, 2009, some farmers in the Ganh Hao, Bac Lieu area reported shrimp larvae dying within 15-30 minutes of eating the INVE diet.  Together with INVE’s distributor Ngoc Trai Company, INVE Vietnam requested the Fisheries Inspection of Agriculture and Rural Development Department (FIARD) of Bac Lieu Province to take samples for testing.  On May 29, Mr. Vo Thanh Hai, Chief of FIARD, announced the results from the analysis as released by QATC3 (Quality Assurance Testing Center 3), which said, “The suspected feed samples meet all the quality standards as per the registration.”


Léger said, “A group of 16 farmers did not accept the results since the analysis did not show the presence of harmful substances.  In the meantime a known person had ‘organized’ his own sample that contained pesticides.  He sent the result to 16 farmers after erasing his name from the certificate; a copy was also sent to FIARD.  Senior Lieutenant Colonel Do Xuan Manh, Vice Director of Economic Police of Bac Lieu Province, assigned a team to investigate the problem and had FIARD analyze a second sample of the original feed samples.  The results have been released...and no harmful components, including pesticides, were detected.”


Mr. Phan Huu Duc, who represents the 16 farmers, will issue a letter of apology rectifying the false allegations with respect to the quality of INVE’s feed.


Legal action is being prepared against the person/company that forged the quality of the product and started the whole story.


Sources: 1. Vietnam News Agency.  Popular farm feed may have wiped out prawns.  July 11, 2009.  2. Aquafeed.com (The free E-zine for aquafeed professionals).  Larval Feed Unfairly Blamed for Vietnamese Shrimp Losses.  Editor, Suzi Fraser Dominy (editor@aquafeed.com).  July 15, 2009.



Country Reports


Pictures of Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture


To view nine pictures of Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture, an integrated tiger shrimp farm (hatcheries, ponds and processing plant) in Queensland, click here.  You’ll see pictures of ponds, paddlewheel aerators, lined ponds, cooked/frozen whole shrimp, the farm’s logo, greenhouse-enclosed broodstock raceways, broodstock, and indoor juvenile rearing tanks.


Nick Kempe (left) is an aquaculture specialist and works closely with the farm.  Nick Moore (right) is General Manager of Gold Coast.


Noel Herbst established the farm in 1986.  The 50-hectare site has 47 ponds that produce 400 metric tons a year, around 10% of the total tiger shrimp production in Australia.  Harvests occur from February to April.  Herbst markets the product to the public, retail outlets and wholesalers—and he exports some to Japan.


Information: Nick Moore, Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture, Marks Road, Woongoolba, Queensland, Australia (phone 07-5546-1361, fax 07-5546-1492, email nickmoore1@bigpond.com).


Source: AllAboutFeeds.netFarm Visit: Tiger Prawn Farm, Woongoolba, Australia.  July 21, 2009.


Belize Aquaculture Supplies Power to Country’s Grid


Belize faces huge power shortages, and the Public Utilities Commission has warned consumers to brace for more frequent and perhaps more prolonged power outages.


Belize Aquaculture, one of the country’s largest shrimp farms, has several big Wartsilla generators to power its farm and aeration system.  The generators also supply 10 megawatts of power to the national grid, but the country still has a shortfall of 48 megawatts.


Source: The Reporter.  Power Crisis in Belize.  Adolph Lucas.  July 17, 2009.


Moratorium on New Hatcheries


No new shrimp hatcheries can be constructed in Ecuador for five years and established hatcheries cannot expand their production!


Cesar Monge, president of the National Chamber of Aquaculture (CNA), said Rafael Verduga Regalado, TEXCUMAR manager and owner of a shrimp breeding and genetic improvement center, was responsible for the moratorium.  “He plots against the development of small, mid-sized and even large hatcheries, inhibits the opportunity to compete, [and] goes against what the government wants, to produce—a law of competencies that averts oligopolies and monopolies,” Monge said.  Verduga is also a consultant for the ministry that instituted the moratorium, which comes at a time when 15 different groups in Ecuador have plans for breeding centers!


Source: FIS United StatesShrimp Execs Reject Lab Moratorium.  Analia Murias (editorial@fis.com).  July 15, 2009.


Registering and Licensing Shrimp Farms on Puna Island and Elsewhere


In a process to verify the current state of legal, irregular and illegal shrimp farms in Ecuador, the National Directorate of Aquatic Spaces (DIRNEA) has initiated the process of registering and licensing all the shrimp farms in the country.  All farms must be in compliance by March 31, 2010, or they will be shut down.



On Puna Island, a big island (855 square kilometers) in the Gulf of Quayaquil, there are 4,819 hectares of legal shrimp ponds, 5,296 hectares with irregular paperwork and 30 hectares with no paperwork.


Countrywide, Ecuador has 2,500 shrimp farms, 1,600 of which are pending registration.  Some of them will not be able to register because their operations began in 1999, a year in which it was illegal to start a new shrimp farm.  Those shrimp farms will have to be returned to the State because they were built without permits!


During the registration processes, government agents will look to see if farms comply with environmental and labor laws and reforestation plans.


Source: FIS United StatesShrimp farming sector to be aligned with the law.  Analia Murias (editorial@fis.com).  July 16, 2009.



Wants Pictures of Live Penaeids


Venkata Pallakila (venkatmarine@gmail.com): I am looking for pictures of live Penaeus indicus, P. monodon and P. vannamei.


Source: The Shrimp List (a mailing list for shrimp farmers).  Shrimp photos required.  July 21, 2009.


Saudi Arabia



Jean-Yves Mével: We are getting ready to start a new shrimp (Penaeus indicus) project 340 kilometers south of Jeddah.  We have obtained all the permits and will start construction in the next few weeks.  We are preparing a list of candidates that might be willing to work for us.  If you’re interested, please send a letter of interest and your CV (curricula vitae, résumé) to (jymevel@mac.com).


Information: Jean-Yves Mével, Al Bayan Holding Company, Aquaculture Project, P.O. Box 40, Garden City Compound B2, Jeddah 21411, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


Source: The Shrimp List (a mailing list for shrimp farmers).  Looking for CVs.  July 21, 2009.



The Swine Flu and Shrimp Exports


On July 16, 2009, the Thai Prawn [Shrimp] Association called on the government to quickly get the H1N1 flu under control, warning that it could be used as a reason for blocking exports of Thai shrimp.  An informed source at the Association said some of Thailand’s trading partners had cited the bird flu problems in Thailand as a reason for stopping Thai poultry exports.  The source said they might try the same tactic with shrimp.


Source: Bangkok Post.  Flu Could Affect Shrimp Exports.  July 16, 2009.


United States

California—Shrimp News International


Hi, if you’re using Internet Explorer as your web browser, you may not be viewing this page exactly as I had planned.  All the information—text, tables, graphics and pictures—will be there, but they might be a little jumbled.  For a better view, try Safari, Netscape, Opera or Firefox (my favorite and it’s free).


Source: Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, July 30, 2009.

United States

Texas—Shrimp Farms Disappearing


Granvil Treece, an aquaculture specialist at Texas A&M University, says shrimp farming in Texas has been declining since 2003.  “We’re losing them right and left.  What’s left is barely hanging on.”


In Arroyo City, hundreds of acres of abandoned shrimp ponds stretch along the banks of the Arroyo Colorado.  Eleven producers once worked at the Arroyo Aquaculture Association Cooperative.  Today, SS San Tung and Triple A. Michael are the last of the shrimp companies operating at the Cooperative.


Harlingen Shrimp Farms, near Bayview, the largest of the three remaining shrimp farms, grows some red drum (a fish) to help offset the loses from the shrimp business.  Fritz Jaenike, general manager at Harlingen, says, “We’re diversifying.”


Environmentalists hope to turn some of the abandoned shrimp ponds at Southern Star Shrimp Farm, a recently foreclosed farm with 1,100 acres of ponds, into a wetland area.


Information: 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 1-979-845-7527, fax 1-979-845-7525, email g-treece@neo.tamu.edu, website http://texas-sea-grant.tamu.edu).


Source: Seafood.com (an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service).  Abandoned Texas Shrimp Farms Could Become Wetlands as Local Aquaculture Production Shrinks.  Editor and Publisher, John Sackton (phone 1-781-861-1441, email jsackton@seafood.com).  July 23, 2009.


Meager Investment Funds


Gilberto Gimenez, president of the Socialist Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INSOPESCA), says the decline in Venezuela’s shrimp production since 2007 has been caused by an absence of investment interest.  Farmers and fishermen are not reinvesting in their businesses and no new money is coming into the industry.


Gimenez said that the national government has kicked off a recovery plan for the shrimp farming industry that hopes to boost domestic consumption—at prices affordable to the people.  “We have two plants in [the state of] Merida and others in [the state of] Falcon that were reclaimed and our idea is that, together with the shrimp farmers and the Venezuelan Agrarian Corporation (CVA), this food will be put in the hands of the Venezuelans and have a nearly 20 percent impact in production,” said Gimenez.


Source: FIS United StatesShrimp Output Trickles Amid Meager Private Investment (photo: INSOPESCA).  Analia Murias (editorial@fis.com).  July 17, 2009.



Lam Van Linh


Lam Van Linh from Bac Lieu Province in the Mekong Delta made his fortune in shrimp farming.  In 2003, he started out with 0.4 hectares of shrimp ponds.  The yield in the first year was 3.7 metric tons with a gross profit of $12,000.  The second year he expanded to 1.2 hectares of ponds.  By 2007, he had 10 ponds covering 2.4 hectares, and his yield grew to 24 tons and his profit to $53,000.


So far in 2009, he has harvested four tons of shrimp from four ponds for a profit of $11,230, and his remaining ponds show signs of bountiful yields.


Lam is the pride of his village.  People often visit him to learn about shrimp farming, and he tells them everything they want to know.  “Shrimp farming is very difficult.  There are people who get rich, while others go bankrupt.  That’s why we, the farmers, share what we know with each other.  Any good techniques that I learn from my experiments, I’m prepared to share with others to help minimize any losses,” said Lam.


Source: Leavefreedom.blogspot.com.  Education and Hard Work Are the Key to Success.  Bao Can Tho (translated by Prey Nokor and posted by Monikhemra Chao).  July 21, 2009.


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