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The History of Shrimp Farming

By George Chamberlain


Edited by Dr. Victoria Alday-Sanz (DVD, M.S., Ph.D., an aquatic animal health consultant), The Shrimp Book—a book about world shrimp farming—contains 920 pages, 33 chapters and sells for $320.  The index alone has 18 pages with about 900 entries.  Drawing on her research, consulting and project management experience throughout Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe, Dr. Alday-Sanz chose more than 60 global experts on shrimp farming to submit information for her book.  One chapter has 480 references, taking up 25 pages.  Divided into six sections (history, biology, production systems, feeds, biosecurity/disease and marketing), the book reviews the shrimp farming research of the last thirty years.  Although it covers business issues and farming strategies, it’s mostly about the technological advances that thrust the industry forward.  Written by the people that did the basic research and participated in the development of the industry, it’s the kind of book you keep on your desk when you need to check a fact, or to look up something about shrimp farming.  With this book, you can zero in on dozens of shrimp farming research topics faster than you can do it on the Internet!  Information: Victoria Alday-Sanz, Gran Via 658, 4-1, 08010 Barcelona, Spain (phone +34-615557844, email


Dr. George Chamberlain, co-owner and technical director of Integrated Aquaculture International (IAI), a consulting company, wrote the first chapter— “History of Shrimp Farming”—in The Shrimp Book.  Chamberlain’s career in aquaculture parallels the huge expansion in shrimp farming that occurred over the last three decades, and he has been an active participant in the shrimp farming industry since the mid-1980s.  No one is more qualified than he to write the history of shrimp farming.  After receiving his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 1988, he worked for Ralston Purina from 1990-1994, spending two years in Mexico City, where he managed shrimp feed sales.  In 1995-1996, at a time when the Society was dominated by shrimp researchers and shrimp farmers, he served as president of the World Aquaculture Society, and in 1997, he founded the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA, which certifies farms, hatcheries, processing plants and feed mills) where he continues to serve as president and the organization’s guiding light.  In conjunction with his GAA work, he created the Global Aquaculture Advocate, a slick, four-color magazine that has become the world’s leading aquaculture publication.  Promoting the theme of responsible aquaculture, the September/October 2012 issue of The Advocate has 111 pages.  In 1998, Chamberlain took a job with Monsanto Company, when Monsanto was exploring the possibility of entering the shrimp farming arena.  In 1999, after Monsanto decided not to invest in shrimp farming, he partnered with Ken Morrison, one of the original investors in the Ecuadorean shrimp farming industry, and together they developed a couple of big, integrated tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) farms in Malaysia, and, currently, they have a contract with the Government of Brunei to help develop its shrimp farming industry.


In a December 2011, email to Shrimp News International, Chamberlain said: “In March 2009, Mr. Morrison and I learned that Kona Bay Marine Resources in Kauai, Hawaii, USA, would soon be offered for sale.  We were impressed with their Penaeus vannamei breeding facilities, farm and processing plant—and with manager, Jim Sweeney, and his dedicated staff.  We decided to buy the operation and began upgrading the P. vannamei breeding program and broadening the range of species reared at the farm.”


His chapter on the history of shrimp farming is concise, straight forward and clearly written, without any of the gobbledygook that clouds a lot of academic writing.  His chapter (34 pages, 8 pictures and 111 references) begins with the historical milestones in Japan, the United States, Taiwan and Ecuador that set in motion today’s ten billion dollar shrimp farming industry.  Then—one by one—he analyses the major advances and setbacks that have occurred over the last twenty years.  If you are interested in the history of aquaculture and shrimp farming and how the technology evolved, his chapter is a must read.  Information: George Chamberlain, Integrated Aquaculture International, 5661 Telegraph Road, Suite 3A, St. Louis, Missouri 63129, USA (1-314-293-5500, fax 1-314-293-5525, email, webpage



Excerpts from Dr. Chamberlain’s History of Shrimp Farming


The history of shrimp farming is analogous to that of terrestrial animal husbandry where traditional culture of wild animals at low density in a natural setting progressed to intensive culture of domesticated animals in a controlled setting.  Shrimp farming in its earliest form began centuries ago in Asia where wild shrimp fry migrated into tidal impoundments intended primarily for milkfish, mullet and other finfish.  This resulted in incidental shrimp crops of 100-200 kilograms per hectare per year (kg/ha/year) with no feeding.  On the west coast of India, in southern Bangladesh and in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, these extensive production techniques performed well due to an abundance of wild fry and tidal ranges of up to seven meters.  In some cases, rice fields were adapted for dry season production of shrimp by raising dikes and installing weirs.  During the dry season, wild fry were supplemented with fry collected outside the pond.  No feed was offered.  Farmers harvested by trapping the shrimp as they flowed out of the pond on the low tide.  These systems could produce as much as 400 kg/ha/year with selective harvesting, water management and fertilization, but harvests of 200 kg/ha/year were more common.


Few advancements occurred in the early, low-production model until the twentieth century.  The primary obstacle to development was the poorly understood life cycle of penaeid shrimp, which involves oceanic mating, a complex series of larval stages and an estuarine juvenile phase.


The first advancements toward completing the life cycle of penaeid shrimp in captivity occurred in 1934, when Dr. Motosaku Fujinaga (also referred to as Dr. Hudinaga) of the Yamaguchi Prefecture of Japan induced spawning of Penaeus japonicus, hatched the eggs and reared the nauplii to mysis stage using diatoms (Skeletonema costatum) as a feed.  In 1940, Fujinaga succeeded in rearing larvae of P. japonicus to adults.  Further experiments were delayed until after World War Two.


In the two decades following the war, Fujinaga developed ground-breaking techniques for shrimp spawning, larval rearing and growout that remain the basis of today’s shrimp farming technology.  Japan became the springboard for development of world shrimp farming, and Fujinaga earned the title of “The Father of Shrimp Farming”.


Dr. I Chiu Liao, renowned former director general of the Taiwan Fisheries Research Institute who studied under Fujinaga as a postdoctoral fellow in 1968, offered the following comments on Fujinaga:


“Dr. Fujinaga wrote his landmark Ph.D. thesis—Reproduction, Development and Rearing of Penaeus japonicus Bate—in English, rather than Japanese, which was very unusual and showed his international awareness.  He also made a special effort to train dozens of students, technicians and researchers who built upon his foundation and ultimately extended it around the world.  He supervised and constantly challenged each of us to achieve.  ...His dream was to make shrimp an affordable food.”



Fujinaga’s Contributions to Hatchery Technology


The accomplishments of Fujinaga and his colleagues were broad and enduring.


• They studied the seasonal spawning behavior of P. japonicus and determined the optimal rearing temperature for larvae.

• They determined the best materials for piping, valves and tank construction to minimize seawater corrosion and toxicity from metals and plastics.

• They employed sieves and sand filters to remove predators and competitors from seawater.

• They found that fine bubble aeration was an effective means of oxygenating and stirring the water.

• They developed complete feeding protocols for larvae including optimal Skeletonema densities.

• They refined pure culture techniques for Skeletonema using autoclaves and mass culture techniques using specific nutrients.

• They developed feeding techniques using other species of diatoms, rotifers and refrigerated and frozen plankton such as oyster eggs.

• They found that Artemia was a suitable food for mysis and early postlarval stages and that short-necked clam meat was a good feed for late-stage postlarvae.

• They developed methods to simplify the larval rearing process by including plankton communities in the same tanks with the larval shrimp.

• They used raw seawater as seed for the plankton community and worked out inorganic fertilization methods for large-scale larval tanks using potassium nitrate, potassium diphosphate, potassium silicate and ferric chloride.

• They succeeded in reducing the amount of feed required to produce one million juvenile shrimp from 8.75 kilograms of Artemia to 2.5 kg, and from 180 kg of clam meat to 80 kg.

• They developed methods for packing and transporting hatchery-reared fry in chilled and oxygenated seawater.


These many advances allowed production of postlarval shrimp on a commercial scale for farming and restocking programs.



Growout Technology


With an available supply of postlarvae, Japanese researchers began to study growout technology as well.  Their first trials used coastal impoundments where water would enter and leave depending on the tide.


• They learned that deeper water (two meters) was more suitable than shallow water (40-50 centimeters) and that screens were needed to prevent the escape of shrimp and the entry of predators and seaweed.

• They also developed techniques for rearing shrimp in floating pens with sand bottoms.

• They explored dissolved oxygen requirements for growout and found that water movement replenishes oxygen.

• They tested various stocking densities for ponds and found that survival rates could be greatly improved through use of nurseries to raise larger juveniles.

• They found that coastal ponds “lose their quality” after a period of time, due to accumulation of organic matter on the bottom and the resulting production of hydrogen sulfide.

• They developed methods for reducing deterioration of the pond bottom by mechanical stirring of the mud with drag nets and for converting hydrogen sulfide to nontoxic iron sulfide by application of iron oxide.

• They also recognized the need for pond preparation between crops by removal of sludge, draining, drying and tilling.


In 1963, Fujinaga constructed two semi-intensive shrimp farms on abandoned salt beds and used daily water exchange of 10-30% to avoid water quality problems.  Shrimp were harvested from ponds using traps or nets equipped with pumped-water nozzles.



Transferring Japan’s Technology


Despite the remarkable research achievements in Japan, commercial shrimp farming was destined to shift to areas with more favorable climates, greater availability of land and more suitable species.  During the 1960s, the second wave of development occurred in which researchers attempted to transfer and adapt Fujinaga’s methods to other locations and species.  The focal points of this initial transfer were the United States and Taiwan.


The United States: One of the hubs of technology development in the Americas was the Galveston Laboratory of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (later named the National Marine Fisheries Service), where Harry Cook and later Corny Mock adapted Fujinaga’s methods for larval rearing of P. japonicus to Gulf of Mexico species including P. aztecus, P. duorarum and P. setiferus.  Their adjustments—including indoor tanks with conical bottoms, airlifts for aeration, growing algae under fluorescent lights to feed zoea, feeding mysis and postlarval stages with Artemia and using EDTA in algae cultures and larval cultures as a way of reducing metal toxicity—became known as the “Galveston Method”.


Won Tack Yang, who had received special training under Fujinaga, established another hub at the University of Miami in Florida, USA.  He and his colleagues developed hatchery and growout technology for the Atlantic pink shrimp (P. duorarum).


Taiwan: Perhaps the clearest and most dramatic link between Fujinaga’s pioneering research and the commercial development of shrimp farming was a young Taiwanese researcher named I. Chiu Liao, who pursued his postdoctoral fellowship in larval rearing of P. japonicus under an elderly Fujinaga.  In 1968, Liao returned to Taiwan, where he adapted Fujinaga’s methods for spawning and larval rearing to several other penaeids, including P. monodon.


Liao followed in Fujinaga’s footsteps with strong leadership and prolific research on all aspects of shrimp biology, physiology, nutrition, disease and ecology.  He established the Tungkang Marine Laboratory, which soon became the “Mecca” of shrimp farming research in Asia.  When Liao began as Director of the Tungkang Center in 1971, Taiwan’s annual shrimp production was 427 metric tons.  By the time he left the Center in 1987, production had risen to 88,264 tons, which was second highest in the world at that time.  Intensive shrimp ponds, now the dominant shrimp production method worldwide, were developed in Taiwan during that period.  As a result, Liao became known as “The Father of P. monodon Farming”.



Advancing The Technology


The 1970s were exciting years for technological developments in shrimp farming.  Organizations like Sea Grant and the World Mariculture Society (later re-named the World Aquaculture Society) in the United States, the Tungkang Marine Laboratory in Taiwan, the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre in the Philippines and the Food and Agriculture Organization in Italy were instrumental in disseminating this information around the world.  In 1978, Harry Cook and H.R. Rabanal published a manual on the pond culture of penaeid shrimp.  Early technology development focused on nutrition, finding the right species and closing the life cycle.


Nutrition: Early Japanese researchers found that raw clams were one of the most effective natural foods for rearing P. japonicus in ponds.  Following this came 35 years of research on nutrient requirements of P. japonicus by such prominent Japanese researchers as Deshimaru, Shigueno, Teshima and Kanazawa using clams as a benchmark for developing formulated feeds.  Experiments on the main source of protein showed that fishmeal did not perform as well as clams, but squid viscera was effective.  The Japanese researchers tested various binders such as gelatin and alginate to hold diets together underwater and also learned to manage feeding rates to avoid residues.


While early shrimp farmers continued to rely on fresh food supplements such as clams and trash fish, Japanese researchers in Kagoshima developed a purified diet with casein, fish oil, soy lecithin, cholesterol, carbohydrates, chitin glucosamine, succinic acid, citric acid, minerals, vitamins, cellulose and lipids.  This diet enabled a sustained series of trials on nutrient requirements.


They found that cholesterol is the most effective sterol source and that larval P. japonicus require 1% cholesterol, and juveniles require 0.3-0.6%.  They investigated fatty acid requirements and found that shrimp did not produce the n-6 and n-3 families of unsaturated fatty acids.  They found that dietary lecithin accelerates the release of dietary lipids, including cholesterol, from the hepatopancreas to the hemolymph.


They studied larval nutrition using diets bound with carrageenan or zein.  In larval P. japonicus, they found that fat level had no beneficial effect beyond 6.5% and that optimum protein level depended on carbohydrate level.  The optimum protein levels were 45%, 45-55% and 55% or more when the dietary carbohydrate levels were 25%, 15% and 5%, respectively.


This outstanding nutrition research with P. japonicus in Japan inspired development of nutrition programs for other penaeid species at Texas A&M University in the United States, IFREMER in France, SEAFDEC in the Philippines and Kasetsart University in Thailand.  While much early progress was made on nutrient requirements of lipids, requirements for many water-soluble nutrients such as amino acids, vitamins and minerals remained unclear, even to this day.  This is due to confounding effects of nutrient leaching caused by the slow feeding habits and external food mastication of shrimp.


Research on nutritional requirements led to commercial manufacture of pelleted shrimp feeds as early as the 1970s.  Leading pioneers in Japan were Nippai and Higashimaru.  One of the shrimp farming pioneers in the Americas was Ralston Purina Company, a USA-based manufacturer of livestock, pet and fish feeds.  Ralston Purina established a commercial shrimp farm and hatchery in Panama and manufactured a water stable 25% protein extruded shrimp feed called “Experimental Marine Ration 25”, which performed well in their ponds.


Finding the Right Species: The early Japanese success with P. japonicus prompted pioneering groups around the world to apply those methods to their local penaeid species.  Most of those attempts proved unsuccessful.  In 1971, Sparks reported “the history of shrimp survival in ponds is discouraging with poor survival the rule rather than the exception.”


Americas: In 1968, Marifarms, a USA company, purchased the rights to Fujinaga’s culture methods for penaeid shrimp and developed a large-scale hatchery and farm near Panama City, Florida, USA.  The hatchery succeeded in producing 50 to 100 million postlarvae per month during the stocking seasons of 1970-1980.  Initially, it relied on wild spawners of three local species: P. setiferus, P. aztecus and P. duorarum, concluding that P. setiferus yielded the best results.


Later Marifarms imported nauplii of P. stylirostris and P. vannamei from Nicaragua and Panama, and achieved improved results.  Growout initially utilized an impounded 1,000-hectare bay and later two 120-ha ponds.  Although the project failed to reach profitability, it produced as much as 375 metric tons of shrimp a year using a large-scale hatchery and pond technology.


From 1968 to 1972, Sea Farms, Inc., produced postlarvae of P. duorarum from wild spawners and stocked them in coral canals and small ponds in the Florida Keys, USA.  Sea Farms found improved survival in ponds as compared to canals, but growth of this species was poor in both cases.


In 1968, United Fruit Company/Armour Company developed a shrimp farm on the Atlantic coast of Honduras and attempted production of P. occidentalis from Panama.  However, growth and survival in ponds was poor, and they exited the business in 1969.


In 1970, Ralston Purina Company established a shrimp farming research center in Crystal River, Florida, USA, and began systematically comparing various species including: P. duorarum, P. aztecus, P. setiferus, P. schmitti, P. brasiliensis, P. occidentalis, P. stylirostris, P. vannamei, P. californiensis and P. paulensis.  The preferred species was P. stylirostris due to its fast growth, large size, docility and its ability to reach sexual maturation in the hatchery.  Ralston Purina also established a commercial semi-intensive farm and hatchery in Panama where it initially raised P. stylirostris.  During the mid-1970s; however, infectious hypodermal and hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHHNV) was introduced from the Philippines.  It caused high mortalities of P. stylirostris, but not of P. vannamei.  As the virus spread through the Americas, P. vannamei became the preferred species because of its superior resistance to IHHNV.


Asia: Many of the same growing pains that occurred with local species in the Americas occurred during the same period in Asia.  Small farms relied on extensive systems stocked with wild fry of a variety of species.  Advances were achieved in the use of lime to manage acid sulfate soils, the use of saponin from tea seed cake to kill fish that invaded the shrimp ponds and the use of organic or inorganic fertilizer to increase productivity.  Yields, however, remained low.  Few large corporations were involved in the early development of shrimp farming in Asia.  An exception was Union Carbide, which started a short-lived shrimp farming project in India in 1978.


Asia’s primary technology advancements occurred in Taiwan, where Liao and his team at the Tungkang Marine Laboratory performed systematic comparisons of six species (P. monodon, P. stylirostris, P. penicillatus, P. japonicus, P. semisulcatus and some Metapenaeus species).  P. monodon was found to have the fastest growth.  It performed well in commercial ponds, tolerated a wide range of salinity and temperature and accepted formulated feed with a protein level of 35-40%.  Taiwan’s early success with P. monodon in spawning and larval rearing, feed manufacturing and pond growout led to the rapid development of commercial farms.


Closing the Life Cycle: To overcome the seasonal availability of wild spawners, early shrimp farmers attempted to induce maturation and spawning in captivity, but they seldom succeeded, due to failure to simulate the natural environment of adult shrimp.  Penaeid shrimp mature and spawn in near-shore oceanic waters with low nutrient levels, stable temperatures and salinities and an abundant supply of marine invertebrates to feed on.


Control of penaeid shrimp reproduction remained an elusive goal until the mid 1970s when several key advances were made.  The first was eyestalk ablation, an overlooked technique originally reported by Panouse in 1943 for hormonally inducing ovarian maturation of crustaceans.  Eyestalk ablation reduces the amount of gonad-inhibiting hormone (GIH) that is secreted from the X-organ-sinus gland complex in the eyestalk and has the effect of stimulating ovarian maturation.


It was not until three decades later that Caillouet applied the process of eyestalk ablation to penaeid shrimp.  His experiments showed that removal of both eyestalks stimulated ovarian maturation, but lethally disrupted other physiological processes of shrimp.  Subsequent research by other researchers showed that removal of only one eyestalk stimulates maturation without causing mortality.


While unilateral eyestalk ablation was sufficient to induce spawning of mature shrimp captured from the wild, it failed to induce maturation of shrimp reared to adult size in captivity.  Researchers later learned that a diet rich in invertebrates such as clams, mussels, squid, Artemia biomass and polychaete worms was needed to support vitellogenesis (egg production) in captive shrimp.  Further gains were achieved by improving environmental conditions to simulate the spawning habitat such as oceanic water quality, stable temperature and salinity, dim lighting and sufficient tank space to enable mating behavior.


These advances in maturation technology were first developed during the late 1970s by Ralston Purina Company in Panama and by Aquacop in Tahiti in the mid to late 1970s.  Their successes were soon replicated at the Galveston Lab in Texas, SEAFDEC in the Philippines and other research facilities around the world.  As a result, healthy adult females held in the proper environment and fed a rich diet would predictably mature and spawn about two weeks after eyestalk ablation.  This not only increased the consistency of shrimp reproduction in captivity, it also paved the way for domestication and genetic selection.



Divergent Approaches by Asia and the Americas


Taiwan: One of the keys to the early success of Taiwan was Liao’s adaptation of Fujinaga’s larval rearing techniques.  Due to inconsistent supply of wild P. monodon spawners and sensitivity of larvae to fertilizers, in 1985, Liao developed the “separate culture method” using 0.5 to 2.0-ton tanks.  This enabled reliable production of postlarvae under controlled conditions.


Taiwan began research on nutritional requirements of P. monodon in 1971, and the first formulated feeds were introduced in 1977.  It became common practice for shrimp farmers to offer formulated feeds supplemented with trash fish.  By 1985, forty manufacturers were producing 50,000 metric tons of P. monodon feeds in Taiwan.


Shrimp farming in Taiwan began by using coastal land unsuitable for other purposes, but as the industry grew, land prices dramatically increased to $50,000 and then to $250,000 per hectare.  The limited availability and high cost of land led Liao’s team of researchers to steadily increase stocking densities and productivity per unit area.


Taiwanese ponds were generally 0.2 to 0.5 hectares, equipped with paddlewheel aerators, stocked with hatchery-reared postlarvae and fed with formulated feeds.  Average productivity steadily increased from 0.68 metric tons per hectare per year in 1977 to 5.74 mt/ha/year in 1986.  Record yields were 13.7 to 21 tons per hectare per year.


In Taiwan, the cost of production at family farms was $4.5 per kilogram compared to $5.6/kg at company farms.  Family farms had lower overhead costs because they had lower labor costs and more intense management techniques than the company farms.  Consequently, small family-owned operations proliferated.  Fragmentation occurred throughout the supply chain resulting in specialized roles for spawner suppliers, nauplius producers, nauplius brokers, algae producers, early stage postlarvae (PL-10 to Pl-12) producers, late stage postlarvae (PL-20 to PL-35) producers and postlarvae brokers (PL-10 to PL-35).  There were also specialized pond harvesters, pond cleaners and suppliers of equipment such as paddlewheels and pumps.


By the mid 1980s, Taiwan’s intensive systems had become the model for shrimp farming throughout Asia.  By 1987, Taiwan’s 10,000 hectares of small, family-owned intensive farms produced 115,000 metric tons of P. monodon.


As Taiwan continued to intensify, resource and sustainability constraints began to appear.  It was common then to dilute seawater ponds with freshwater to improve growth rates of P. monodon.  Extraction of large volumes of freshwater from shallow aquifers led to land subsidence in Taiwan.  Discharge of effluents led to concerns about pollution.  Increasing stocking densities led to higher incidence of disease.


Thailand: In Thailand, the industry progressed from extensive to semi-intensive culture following the successful breeding of P. monodon at the Phuket Fisheries Centre in 1974.  Intensive culture was introduced from Taiwan in the early 1980s.  Intensive farms were family operations with less than two hectares of water surface consisting of 0.3 to 0.5-hectare ponds with a depth of 1.5 to 1.8 meters and equipped with aeration.  Results were encouraging, and intensive culture spread quickly.


Rapid expansion in Thailand was stimulated by technical, financial and infrastructural support offered by the Thai government and the Asian Development Bank as well as the tax-free status of shrimp farming.


Another major impetus for development in Asia was a complete umbrella of technical and financial support provided to small producers by major feed companies such as San Miguel in the Philippines and Charoen Pokphand (CP) in Thailand.  In the Philippines, San Miguel’s intensive demonstration ponds with concrete walls and earthen bottoms achieved P. monodon yields of 8.4 to 11.2 metric tons per crop with a survival rate of 80% and stocking density of 10 to 30 postlarvae per square meter.  Such results led to a boom in the Philippines in the mid-1980s, as sugar cane plantations in Negros Province recognized shrimp farming as a profitable alternative crop.  Shrimp became the top marine product export from the Philippines, earning at its peak in 1992 approximately $300 million.


Ecuador: In the early 1970s, Ecuadorian producers began building 20-hectare ponds on mud flats and stocking them with P. vannamei captured in the beach surf.  Stocking densities were low and feeds were not offered.  The business was profitable because land and labor were cheap, wild seed was abundant and diseases were rare.  By 1977, approximately 3,000 hectares of extensive shrimp farms had been developed in Ecuador.


During the mid 1970s, Ralston Purina began conducting pond trials in Ecuador to demonstrate the benefits of feeding.  Participating shrimp farms were impressed with the growth, survival and production achieved with water-stable shrimp feeds.  Consequently, dedicated shrimp feed mills were developed during the 1980s.  This marked the transition of Ecuadorian farms from extensive to semi-intensive production.


Ecuador’s production rose from 4,800 tons in 1978 to 23,390 tons in 1983.  In 1983, however, La Niña weather patterns caused cool offshore temperatures and shortages of wild seed supply.  This hampered growth and led to construction of hatcheries.  Milton and Kenneth Morrison, through a technology contract with France Aquaculture of Tahiti, built Semacua, one of the first modern hatcheries, near Salinas.  This eventually led to the development of hundreds of hatcheries along the stretch of beach now known as “hatchery row”.


While Asian shrimp farming was dominated by small family-owned operations with high specialization, the Ecuadorian industry was dominated by large corporate operations with integrated farms, hatcheries, processing plants and feed mills.  Ecuador’s integrated semi-intensive approach became the model for shrimp farming development in Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Colombia, Brazil and other countries throughout tropical Latin America.


Elsewhere in Latin America: In the mid 1970s, Harold Webber established a pioneering shrimp farm in Costa Rica called Maricultura.  It was selected as the tour site for the 1977 annual meeting of the World Mariculture Society, which further stimulated interest in shrimp farming.  In Honduras, one of the leading farms was Granjas Marinas San Bernardo.  It built 500 hectares of ponds in 1984 and grew through acquisitions and mergers to 3,600 hectares by 1992.  In Brazil, one of the pioneering farms was Maricultura da Bahia.  It imported and domesticated P. vannamei and P. stylirostris from Panama and P. monodon and P. penicillatus from the Tungkang Marine Laboratory in Taiwan.


As the shrimp farming sector grew in Latin America, the industry consolidated and innovated to improve efficiency through mechanical harvesting, production of brine frozen, head-on, cooked shrimp for the European market, bulk feeding, and even feeding by crop duster plane.



The Rest of the Chapter


The above information was taken almost verbatim from the first quarter of Chamberlain’s chapter.  In the last three quarters of the chapter, Chamberlain chronicles the major developments that led to the billion-dollar shrimp farming industry of today:


China’s Initial Surge To Dominance


The Onset of Epidemic Diseases

       Disease Vectors

       IHHNV Spreads Through the Americas

       Unexplained Losses in Taiwan

       Yellowhead Virus Hits Thailand

       WSSV Becomes a Global Pandemic

       TSV Spreads from Ecuador

       IMNV Hits Brazil and Indonesia


Issues of Sustainability, Food Safety and Trade

       Environmental and Social Issues

       Food Safety Issues

       International Trade Issues

       New technologies Improve Sustainability


Health Management

       Detection of Viruses

       Development of SPF Lines

       Introduction of SPF P. vannamei to Asia

       Immunostimulants and Vaccines



Selective Breeding


       Specific Pathogen Resistance

       Breeding for Performance

       Use of Genetic Markers




       Reduced Water Exchange


       Pond Liners


       Inland Culture

       Super-Intensive Systems




       Feed Manufacturing

       Nutritional Requirements


Consolidation and Integration



       BAP Certification

       Need for Clusters to Certify Small Farms





Viral disease epidemics plagued the industry from the 1980s through the turn of the century, but these ultimately led to more disciplined management that has improved efficiency and reduced dependence on natural resources.  One of the most rapid adjustments was the switch in Asia from wild P. monodon to specific-pathogen-free, genetically-improved P. vannamei.


The technology of shrimp farming has evolved quickly by capitalizing on advances from other fields.  Viral diseases are now detected using DNA tools developed by the biomedical field.  Shrimp are bred using genetic strategies and fed using nutritional disciplines applied by the poultry and swine sectors.  Farm management, traceability and supply chain logistics have benefited from innovations in information technology.  The industry is consolidating and integrating to improve efficiency and control.


As shrimp farming has grown, so too have concerns about associated environmental, social, food safety and international trade issues.  Sweeping changes in regulatory and management practices have improved sustainability by reducing habitat destruction, effluent discharge and antibiotic use.  Bodies like the Global Aquaculture Alliance are developing certification standards to assure retailers and consumers of wholesome and sustainable practices.


In short, the history of shrimp farming has been characterized by major setbacks, rapid technological advances and global scrutiny from environmentalists and regulators.  It has overcome these daunting challenges and emerged in a strong position to face the future.


The next step is to improve communication and coordination among the entire network of global stakeholders including governments of exporting and importing countries; importers, retailers and their organizations; financial and lending institutions; conservation and social justice organizations; foundations and donor organizations; and many others.  While each of these organizations plays an important individual role, their fragmented structure can lead to conflicts, confusion, duplication and needless cost.  This phase of the evolution of shrimp farming has the potential to stimulate further efficiency and growth through a new level of transparency, accountability and trust.


Sources: 1. The Shrimp Book.  Edited by Victoria Alday-Sanz Chapter One: History of Shrimp Farming.  George W. Chamberlain.  Nottingham University Press.  2010.  2. Summarized by Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, September 2012.

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