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The History of Shrimp Farming and the

Factors That Led to Its Growth


Using traditional extensive techniques in large (30 hectares or more), low-lying coastal paddy fields, the first shrimp farms in Thailand were probably started during the 1930s.  Because of the dependence on natural tidal flow for wild seed and naturally occurring food organisms, yields were usually low (approximately 200 kilograms per hectare per year–kg/ha/yr).


Semi-intensive shrimp farming in Thailand started during the early 1970s and was replaced by intensive shrimp farming beginning in 1987.  Penaeus monodon was the favored species because of the availability of hatchery-produced postlarvae and P. monodon’s ability to grow fast under semi-intensive conditions.  Stocking densities ranged from 5 postlarvae per square meter to 10 PL/m2.  Semi-intensive shrimp culture used smaller ponds (1 to 8 hectares) than traditional extensive farms and produced significantly higher yields of up to 1,000 kg/ha/yr.


Since 1987, shrimp farming in Thailand gradually evolved into intensive farming of P. monodon with stocking densities ranging from 20 PL/m2 to 40 Pl/m2.  During this period, flow-through systems were used to maintain good pond water quality and to accelerate shrimp growth.  With two crops a year, the yield from these systems was about 4,000 to 10,000 kg/ha/yr.  This raised farm production from 23,566 metric tons a year in 1987 to about 263,500 tons in 1994.


Higher stocking densities and production led to some negative factors like yellowhead virus in 1992 and whitespot syndrome virus in 1994.  To deal with these disease problems, semi-closed intensive shrimp farming systems with biosecurity and stocking densities of 40 PL/m2 to 60 PL/m2 were developed to replace the flow-through systems, increasing shrimp production to about 309,862 tons per year by the end of 2000.  In 2002, monodon slow growth syndrome (MSGS) struck the shrimp farming industry, reducing annual production by approximately 36 percent.  This was the most significant shrimp disease outbreak in Thailand’s history, ending the expansion of intensive P. monodon farming and ushering in Pacific white shrimp (P. vannamei) farming in 2003-2004.  White shrimp liked Thailand’s tropical climate and quickly adapted to the country’s closed, intensive shrimp farming system.  In addition, from 2005 to 2008, a new breeding program to promote fast growth of white shrimp and a new super-intensive farming technology were developed in Thailand.  Stocking densities increased to 40 PL/m2 to 200 PL/m2 and yields increased to about 8,000 to 30,000 kg/ha/yr, allowing Thailand to produce nearly 600,000 tons in 2009-2010!


Then in 2009, an outbreak of early mortality syndrome—more accurately acute hepatopancreatic necrosis disease (EMS/AHPND)—caused by a toxin producing strain of Vibrio parahaemolyticus was reported in China.  It spread to Vietnam in 2010 and Malaysia in 2011.  The first report of EMS/AHPND in Thailand was during late August 2011 in eastern Thailand.  EMS/AHPND led to a serious decline in shrimp production to about 217,437 tons a year by the end of 2014.  The outbreak not only reduced production, but the fear of it also hindered a recovery.


Shrimp farming has immense economic importance for Thailand, but its rapid growth ushered in some problems with the environment and food safety.  There became a fundamental need to establish standards to promote the sustainable development of intensive shrimp farming in terms of quality and safety that would find acceptance at the domestic and international levels.  Thus, a standard was created called “Good Aquaculture Practices for Marine Shrimp Farms”, based on information from the successful demonstration of Thai national voluntary standards on “Good Aquaculture Practice (GAP) in Marine Shrimp Farms (2005)” and the “Code of Conduct for Responsible Marine Shrimp Aquaculture (2003)”.  The “FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1999)” and the “Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products (2005)” were also incorporated into the new standards.


The Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA) reports that during the past twenty years, frozen and processed shrimp have been the most important fishery exports of Thailand.  Production from closed, intensive shrimp farms created export income of over $3 billion annually during 2010–2011.  During this period, the Thai shrimp farming industry benefitted from the global reduction in shrimp production in other shrimp farming countries, caused by natural disasters and disease epidemics.  Consequently, Thailand’s share of the international market increased—and so did prices.



Factors That Affected the Growth of

Shrimp Farming in Thailand


Hatcheries: The number of active large, medium and small (backyard) shrimp hatcheries operating in Thailand ranges from 1,000 to 2,000.  Prior to the outbreak of EMS/AHPND, the demand for P. vannamei postlarvae for intensive shrimp farming was about 65,000 to 78,000 million PL/year.  During the outbreak, the demand fell to 52,000 million PL/year.


Feeds: Most shrimp farms in Thailand use high-quality, high-protein feed.  The annual feed consumption is estimated to be about 900,000 tons (for the production of 600,000 tons with an average feed conversion ratio of about 1.5).  Twenty-two feed producers are registered with the Department of Fisheries.  There are also about 50 to 100 companies that supply farm chemicals and materials for water disinfection, improvement and management.


Water Exchange: Low water exchange in shrimp culture is useful to enhance environmental sustainability through minimizing the discharge of pollutants and reducing the risk of contamination with diseases or the introduction of disease carriers or predators that can enter ponds with water from external sources.  This is one of the most efficient ways to prevent disease outbreaks, especially those resulting from water exchange.  Low water exchange must be complemented with sufficient aeration to compensate for low levels of oxygen in ponds with limited water exchange.


Broodstock: P. vannamei broodstock are produced in specific pathogen free (SPF) facilities that have been disease free for at least two years.


Biosecurity: With the intensification of shrimp farming, biosecurity has become increasingly important in Thailand.  Quarantined broodstock, certified specific pathogen-free (SPF) nauplii and disinfected water and hatchery materials are recommended as good biosecurity practices.  Physical measures such as the wearing of special footwear and clothing are used to prevent the intrusion of disease-carrying vectors by humans.  The exclusion of disease vectors, especially vectors of shrimp viral disease during pond preparation, must be accomplished on farms.  Chlorine and iodine are often used to treat incoming water and materials before they enter a facility.


Genetic Programs: P. vannamei breeding programs have increased profitability by creating shrimp with faster growth rates and more disease resistance.  A significant improvement is related to growth performance: results revealed that the growth rate observed in many areas increased from an average of about 60 count/kg in 100 days of culture (0.17 grams per day) to about 60 count/kg in 70 to 80 days (0.21 to 0.24 grams per day).  A selective breeding program that promotes disease resistance to whitespot and Vibrio encourages shrimp farmers to engage in closed, intensive shrimp farming because of the availability of seedstock that is less susceptible to specific pathogens.


Probiotics: The use of probiotics, mainly Bacillus and Lactobacillus, has led to better shrimp production in Thailand.  The application of probiotics in closed, intensive shrimp farming aims to accelerate the decomposition of organic wastes that accumulate in the pond.  Probiotics help create a healthy pond, reduce toxic nitrogen wastes and stabilize pH in the range of 7.5 to 8.0, which is desirable for the healthy growth of shrimp.


Automatic Feeders: Since 2009, automatic feeders have been popular on recirculating, intensive shrimp farms, especially on medium-scale and large-scale farms.  One automatic feeder is recommended for 300,000 to 600,000 shrimp.


Information: Communication related to this publication should be addressed to the following: Kuldeep K. Lal, Coordinator, Genetics and Biodiversity Programme, Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (Thailand), Kasetsart University Campus, Kaset-Klang, Chatuchak Bangkok 10900, Thailand (Email kuldeep@enaca.org); and Weimin Miao, Aquaculture Officer, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 39 Phra Athit Road, Bangkok 10200, Thailand (Email weimin.miao@fao.org).


Sources: 1. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (Bangkok, Thailand).  Sustainable Intensification of Aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific Region/Documentation of Successful Practices.  Editors W. Miao and K.K. Lal. 2016.  Country Paper 12: Development and Dissemination of Closed (semi-closed) Intensive Shrimp Farming Systems in Thailand.  Putth Songsangjinda (Email putths@yahoo.com, Marine Shrimp Culture, Department of Fisheries Kaset-Klang, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand).  Page 130. 2. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, March 30, 2016.
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