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The Female Seedstock Collectors
of West Bengal, India

 

 

 

 

In chapter five of Forest of Tigers, author Annu Jalais, a post-doctoral associate at the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University (USA), details the lives of the shrimp seedstock collectors on Garjontola Island, a small mangrove island deep within the Sundarbans of West Bengal, India.  That seedstock, as it passes through a series of middlemen, eventually becomes one of India’s prized export commodities—frozen tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon), which have earned the name “the living dollars” of the Sundarbans.

 

 

About 10,000 hectares, mostly in the northern region of India’s Sundarbans, have been converted into shrimp ponds.  Those ponds depend on shrimp seedstock collected—mostly by women—from the estuaries of the southern Sundarbans.

 

Shrimp seed collection got started in the late 1970s.  Then, after the disastrous cyclones of 1981 and 1988, when the saltwater estuaries flooded traditional fields, making them useless for three years, seedstock collection became an important industry in the islands.  With their fields lying idle, the people returned to collecting crabs, fish, honey, wood—and shrimp seedstock, which, in the last twenty years, has become one of the most stable sources of revenue for the islanders.

 

Shrimp seed collection also expanded because the late 1970s and 1980s were a time when the government came down heavily on those who worked in forest reserves without permits.  The permits were relatively expensive, a luxury that few islanders could afford.  Collecting shrimp seedstock around one’s village, however, did not require a forest permit.

 

Seed collection quickly became popular because it could be done close to home during one’s leisure time and required a very modest investment, a mosquito net mounted on a thin wooden frame.  Seed was readily available and sold, by local standards, for significant sums.  Shrimp seed collectors are predominantly women (but not exclusively) from families where the men work in the forest as honey collectors, fishermen and woodcutters.

 

The islanders say that in the beginning collecting was a craze that nearly everybody tried because it was such an easy way to earn cash.  The wives of school teachers and important politicians were, like their poorer counterparts, known to have hitched up their saris and spent entire days wading in rivers pulling behind them the fine net used to collect shrimp seed.  The threat of crocodiles in those earlier times was remote and seed prices were good.

 

But, don’t get the idea that collecting shrimp seedstock is a walk in the park.  Violence and risk loom everywhere.  In the 1980s, after the government established crocodile hatcheries, the rivers and canals of the Sundarbans became infested with crocodiles, the largest of which grow to a length of 23 feet or 7 meters.  Apart from the crocodiles, collectors risk being attacked by tigers, sharks and venomous snakes.  Each year, the number of crocodile victims—mostly women—keeps increasing.  Tigers and crocodiles kill an estimated 150 people a year in West Bengal, India.  In addition, counting the shrimp seed gives rise to endless charges of cheating—and fighting.

 

 

Collection Techniques

 

The islanders use two techniques to collect shrimp seedstock: one requires a boat, the other can be done from the riverbank.  With the first technique, the collector anchors his boat in a tidal river, throws a net overboard and checks it for postlarvae every half hour.  This often requires spending an entire night on the river.  The second technique, much more popular, consists of pulling a mosquito net mounted on a wooden frame while wading in waist to shoulder-deep water along the bank of a river.  Usually women and children fish by pulling nets, and men (sometimes with their wives) fish from boats.  Pulling nets along the banks of their villages enables women and children to remain close to their homes.  Women can easily go back to their household chores and children to their classes or games.  A couple of hours of net-pulling allows a woman to make more money than the wage she would have made from working a full day in someone’s fields.

 

Even though it is illegal, seed collection is also undertaken around the forest reserves because the catches are greater there.  Groups of intrepid young women or groups of men and women of all ages row their boats to large river intersections, settle on a bank, and pull their nets for six or seven hours.

 

 

Counting, Buying and Selling Seedstock

 

When the collectors return to dry land, they count the seed.  This procedure entails hours of sitting along the village paths while separating each grayish, inch-long, hair-thin tiger seed with a white bivalve shell.  The counting of shrimp seed is a long-drawn-out process that often erupts in fights.  Sometimes dead tiger postlarvae (which turn reddish) or non-tiger shrimp (differences are apparent only to the trained eye) are passed off as the real thing.  The dealers stroll up and down the village levies with aluminum pots in the hope of coming across collectors who have just returned from fishing.  Prices vary greatly, and change seasonally from village to village, and even hourly, depending on how good or bad the catch was that day.

 

From August to October, the monsoon months, when shrimp seed proliferate, women catch around 1,000 postlarvae a day and men in boats around 3,000 a day.  During this time the price for shrimp seed drops to as low as $1.10 a 1,000.  During the leanest months, January and February, when the catch falls to 200-300 per person a day, the rate goes up to $8.50 for 1,000 seed.

 

 

Middlemen Purchase the Seed and Sell It to Farmers

 

Four to seven men usually work as purchasing agents for each shrimp farm.  When they are not out on the levies buying shrimp seed, they work in their little shacks where they stockpile shrimp in aluminum pots and keep records on the number of seedlings purchased by each collector.  They sell the seed to the farm owners, not by counting it all over again, but by letting the farmers count the seed in a pot picked at random.

 

During the high season, shrimp collectors at two villages on Satjelia Island—each with 3,000 inhabitants—sold a total of about $14,000 worth of seed a night.  Pirates regularly attack the boats that take the shrimp seed to the farms or to Bangladesh.  Boats are also heavily fined by the Border Security Force when they illegally cross the border to sell the shrimp seed in Bangladesh, a frequent practice because the Bangladeshi dealers pay a higher price for seed than the dealers in West Bengal.

 

Information: A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library.  ISBN: 978-0-415-54461-0.

 

Information: Amazon.com.

 

Sources: 1. Forest of Tigers.  People, Politics and Environment in the Sundarbans.  Annu Jalais.  Chapter Five/Roughing It with Kali: Braving Crocodiles, Relatives and the Bhadralok.  Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.  London, New York and New Delhi.  2010.  2. Photographs.  Except for the book cover, the photographs are not from Forest of Tigers.  They came from the following source.  Guardian.co.uk.  Sundarbans: Paradise Eroded.  March 28, 2008.

 

 

Country Reports

Ecuador

National Conference in October 2010

 

Information: Niza Cely (phone 593-4-099-604-204, email ncely@cna-ecuador.com).

 

Source: The webpage of Ecuador’s Cámara Nacional de Acuacultura.  Editor, Jorge Tejada (jtejada@cna-ecuador.com).   Feria Internacional de Productos Acuícolas y Pesqueros - 11 al 14 de Octubre. September 10, 2010.

 

Ecuador

Registration of Shrimp Farms Continues—and So Do the Ejections

 

Shrimp farms continue to be removed from unapproved areas in Ecuador, and the debate over the modification of the new registration regulations continues, especially with regard to small farms on “bays and beaches”.

 

Source: The webpage of Ecuador’s Cámara Nacional de Acuacultura.  Editor, Jorge Tejada (jtejada@cna-ecuador.com).  Resumen de prensa - Sector Camaronero.  September 2, 2010.

Indonesia

Shrimp Farming Conference in October 2010

 

The International Conference of Aquaculture Indonesia (ICAI) 2010 and the International Conference on Shrimp Aquaculture (ICOSA) 2010 will be held at Hang Tuah University, Surabaya, on October 25-29, 2010.

 

Information: International Conference of Aquaculture Indonesia 2010, Indonesian Aquaculture Society, PO Box 8032, SMEL Semarang, Jawa Tengah, Indonesia (phone +62-24-70194598, fax +62-24-8318-908, email aquacultureindonesia@gmail.com, website http://www.aquaculture-mai.org).

 

Source: The Global Aquaculture Advocate (The Global Magazine for Farmed Seafood).  Editor, Darryl Jory (dejry2525@aol.com).  Advertisement for Indonesian Conference.  Volume 13, Issue 5, Page 61, September/October 2010.

Indonesia

Shrimp Farmers Don’t Want the Government to Allow Shrimp Imports

 

Responding to an item in Shrimp News about Indonesian exporters wanting to import shrimp because local shrimp farms were not able to meet their demands, Jubir, a shrimp farmer in Bali, writes:

 

Shrimp farmers are strongly opposing the idea of importing shrimp because imports could bring new diseases into Indonesia that could put hundreds of thousands of people in the shrimp farming industries out of work.  We keep looking for ways to increase production.  Who doesn’t want to increase domestic production, right?

 

Source: Email to Shrimp News International from Jubir (jubir@yahoo.com).  Subject: Why Shrimp Import Is a Problem in Indonesia.  September 4, 2010.

Malaysia

Blue Archipelago’s i-Kerpan Farm

 

While developing a 1,000-hectare shrimp farm in northeastern Malaysia, Blue Archipelago continues to refurbish its 420-hectare i-Kerpan shrimp farm in northwestern Malaysia.  It began with the building of an on-site processing plant with a capacity of ten tons a day.  Now the farm can move shrimp from ponds to processing plant in less than an hour.  i-Kerpan is the third-largest shrimp farm in Malaysia, capable of producing 4,000 metric tons of Penaeus vannamei annually.  Its 226 growout ponds have HDPE liners that not only enhance biosecurity but also produce shrimp with outstanding color.  The growout operation is supported by a hatchery that can produce 40 million postlarvae a month.

 

i-Kerpan is in the process of becoming a Global Aquaculture Alliance, three-star (hatchery, farm and processing plant) Best Aquaculture Practices-certified facility.  When it completes a five-metric-ton-per-hour feedmill (planned for 2011), it could earn a fourth star from GAA.

 

Information: Blue Archipelago Berhad, T3-9, Level 3, KPMG Tower, 8 First Avenue, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia (phone +60-3-7725-0020, webpage http://www.bluearchipelago.com).

 

Source: The Global Aquaculture Advocate (The Global Magazine for Farmed Seafood).  Editor, Darryl Jory (dejry2525@aol.com).  Malaysia Promotes New Paradigm in Aquaculture.  Volume 13, Issue 5, Page 18, September/October 2010.

Mexico

Government Invests in Fisheries and Shrimp Farming

 

Through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) and the National Commission of Aquaculture and Fisheries (CONAPESCA), the federal government has committed $172.1 million to fisheries and aquaculture in 2010.  Six million dollars will be used to improve 9,000 hectares of rural aquaculture areas in the states of Sonora and Tamaulipas.

 

Source: FIS United States.  Investment of USD 170 Million to Boost Fishing Industry.  Analia Murias (editorial@fis.com).  September 3, 2010.

Saudi Arabia

National Prawn Company Wins Award

 

 

On September 1, 2010, the National Prawn Company, the world leader in desert coastal aquaculture, was awarded the prestigious British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety.  The British Retail Consortium is the lead trade association for the retail industry in the United Kingdom.  BRC standards provide a measure by which food manufacturers and suppliers can demonstrate to current and potential customers a commitment to food safety and quality.

 

 

To achieve BRC’s “A” rating, NPC met rigorous requirements for the processing of shrimp at its Al Lith farm on the Red Sea, where it currently produces and processes 15,000 metric tons of shrimp each year.

 

Managing Director, Ahmad R. Al Balla, said, “This is a tremendous achievement for the whole team and will, we hope, help us open new markets.  This is a very important accreditation, which demonstrates our commitment to the highest standards of quality and sustainability across all our operations.”

 

 

 

NPC has other accreditations including HACCP, ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and ISO 22000, and is the only Saudi Arabian aquaculture operation to have a license to export to the European Union.

 

With over 2,700 employees, NPC’s farm is a small community in its own right.  On-site is a 21.6Mw power station, a feed mill, a road building and maintenance facility, community services, recreational facilities, a clinic, and an international school for employees’ families.

 

NPC coined the term “Desert Coastal Aquaculture” for its extensive, sustainable operations in a forbidding terrain.  Sustainability is an integral part of NPC’s commitment to its customers.  All activities from hatchery to pond to cold storage are monitored and fully traceable.  NPC’s scientists maintain an extensive bio-security program at all times, with daily sampling of vital parameters.

 

Information: Laurence Cook, Director of Corporate Communications (cell +966 555071460, phone +966 26638464, extension 150).

 

Sources: 1. Zawya.com.  NPC Awarded BRC, a Trade Accreditation.  September 3, 2010.  2. National Prawn Company’s Website on September 13, 2010.

Thailand

$27 Million, Three-Year Strategic Plan for the Shrimp Farming Industry

 

Thailand’s shrimp farmers produce 500,000-550,000 metric tons of whole shrimp annually, accounting for 28 percent of the world’s shrimp production.  Over 90 percent of it is for export in the form of refrigerated, frozen and processed white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei).

 

The Thai Fisheries Department has drafted a three-year (2010-2013) strategic plan for the shrimp farming industry that will be open for public inspection and then submitted to the Thai Cabinet for approval.

 

Fisheries Department director-general, Dr Somying Piumsombun, said his agency developed the plan in cooperation with Kasetsart University’s Center of Applied Economic Research.  The plan’s slogan, “Marketing to Lead Production”, encourages a sustainable and environmentally friendly shrimp farming industry.

 

The Thai Cabinet will consider approval for both the plan itself and a $27 million budget for 20 projects to shore up the shrimp farming industry.

 

Some key provisions of the plan:

 

• to increase the area devoted to shrimp farming

• to add more value to processed shrimp products

• to penetrate all markets

• to encourage research that leads to increased production

 

Also under the new plan, the production of giant tiger shrimp (P. monodon) and freshwater shrimp (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) will be increased to lessen the risks of relying too much on white shrimp.  Right now, falling prices or a disease epidemic among white shrimp could cripple the industry.

 

Sources: 1. MCOT.com.  Thai Shrimp Production Strategy Focuses on Proactive Marketing.  September 1, 2010.  2. Bangkok Post.  Strategic Shrimp Project to Modernize Industry.  September 2, 2010.

United States

Alabama— Greene Prairie Aquafarm Sells Shrimp to Whole Foods

 

David Teichert-Coddington, along with his partners, H.R. (Rudy) Schmittou and Thomas Schmittou, runs Greene Prairie Aquafarm in Boligee, Alabama, 150 miles inland from the Gulf Coast.  Located about 45 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa, Boligee sits on top of a saltwater aquifer, so Tiechert-Coddington and his partners use that water to grow marine shrimp in 17 ponds covering 54 surface acres.

 

While Greene Prairie Aquafarm has experimented with oysters, red fish and striped bass, T-C says they prefer to do one thing very well and will stick to growing shrimp.

 

The Whole Foods Market in Mountain Brook has been selling Greene Prairie shrimp since the store opened in February 2007.  Jason Templin, Seafood Department Team Leader for the Mountain Brook Whole Foods Market, has this to say about Greene Prairie Aquafarm, “David is so obviously passionate about what he does.  He is as vertically integrated as you can be in the business—he does everything from feeding the shrimp to harvesting to delivering the shrimp to our store.  Like any farmer, he works sun-up to sun-down and then some.”  He also supplies several local restaurants, but would love to sell to more.  His favorite way to eat shrimp?  “I just love to sauté them in a little butter and olive oil and add some chopped garlic.  When I want some heat, I add in Cajun seasoning.”

 

Information: David Teichert-Coddington (phone 1-334-507-4715, email david@greeneprairieaquafarm.com, webpage http://www.greeneprairieaquafarm.com/html/contact.html).

 

Source: BHAM Weekly.  Little Shrimp at the Prairie.  Christiana D. Roussel.  September 2, 2010.

United States

Florida—Red Lobster and Bill Herzig

 

Darden Restaurants, home to Red Lobster and Olive Garden, among other chains, is one of the largest buyers of seafood in the world, purchasing more than 100 million pounds of it annually.  Bill Herzig, senior vice president of purchasing and supply chain innovation at Darden, says the demand for seafood will continue to increase.  Where will the supply come from?  Aquaculture and best practices, he says, will provide the answers.

 

Herzig said, “When I got here in 1997, we had 127 shrimp suppliers.  Today we have eight suppliers doing about twice the volume.  They are leaders in each of the countries they operate in, and they all share information with each other.  I like to describe it as ‘coop-i-ti-tion’.”

 

Most large restaurants purchase through middlemen, but Red Lobster goes straight to the producer–the people who operate the processing plants, the boats and farms.

 

Source: Smart Planet.  Red Lobster: Sustainability for the Seafood Lover of the Future.  Melanie D.G. Kaplan.  September 1, 2010.

United States

Indiana—Freshwater Prawn Farm’s Fourth Harvest

 

Keith and Katrina Henderson run Eddy-Lynn’s Shrimp Farm, a freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) farm that harvested its fourth annual crop over the Labor Day weekend.  As in previous years, the public was invited to the harvest, and a pond was drained at approximately noon each day for the visitors who wanted to see a harvest.

 

The Henderson’s sell their prawns for $10 a pound, packaged in two-pound bags.  The farm is located just off Highway 240 on 900 East at the County Line.  For more information check out its website at http://www.shrimpfarminginindiana.com.

 

Source: Banner Graphic.  Public Invited to Weekend Freshwater Shrimp Harvest.  August 30, 2010.

United States

Mississippi—Purchasing Power of Gulf Shrimp Weakening

 

According to an Internet-based scientific survey conducted by Drs. John Lambert, David Duhon and Joseph Peyrefitte at the Southern Mississippi College of Business, the public is very much concerned about oil and dispersants in their seafood.  The survey was done in two phases: one at the beginning of Mississippi’s brown shrimp season (late June early July 2010) and another done when British Petroleum (BP) plugged its well (August 9, 2010).

 

“While individuals are concerned about the tainted Gulf waters, there is still purchasing loyalty toward buying Gulf Coast shrimp, but that purchasing loyalty is weakening,” explained Dr. Lambert, a consumer behavior expert and assistant professor of international business.

 

Although purchasing loyalty is weakening, emotional loyalty to Gulf Coast shrimp remains strong.  In the first phase of the study, just over 56 percent of respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “There is nothing to compare with our gulf coast shrimp; I will not buy imported shrimp”.  In the second phase of the survey just over 55 percent of respondents strongly agreed or agreed with that statement.

 

“Overall, this preliminary review of data indicates that there is consumer confidence in and loyalty to fresh Gulf Coast shrimp, but many of the consumers are indeed concerned about the safety of the seafood,” said Dr. Lambert.

 

The trio of researchers plan a more detailed analysis of the data in the near future and are planning to conduct further surveys on the lingering effects of the BP oil spill.

 

Source: The FishSite.  Consumers Concerned With Gulf Shrimp.  August 12, 2010.

Vietnam

Shrimp Exports Jump

 

Seafood exports totaled $2.9 billion in the first eight months of this year, an increase of 13 percent compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

 

Shrimp and tra catfish saw the greatest growth in both volume and value, the ministry said, with shrimp exports rising by 15 percent in volume during the period to 110,300 metric tons and 20 percent in value to $929 million.

 

The European Union continued as the leading export market for Vietnamese seafood, followed by the USA and Japan.  Seafood exporters shipped 204,600 tons to the EU in the first eight months, earning $621 million, an increase of 5 percent in volume and 7 percent in value during the same period last year.

 

Japan was the leading export market for Vietnamese shrimp.

 

Seafood exports are expected to reach $4.5 billion this year, according to the ministry.  VASEP urges its members to join in international trade fairs to establish further direct contacts with importers.

 

Source: VietNamNews.  Seafood Exports Rise 13% in Eight Months.  September 7, 2010.

 

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