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The French Connection

France’s Contribution to World Shrimp Farming

 (1972 to 2000)

Primary Author, Alain Michel

Introduction

 

 

Alain Michel 2013

Shrimp News: This article was prepared by Alain Michel and his associates*, all of whom played vital roles in the French Government’s development of shrimp farming in the early 1970s and beyond.  Unlike some of the players who were with the program for short periods, Michel was one of the leading members of the French team for the full duration of the program, from 1972 to 2000.  The group published its results and findings under the name of “Aquacop”, giving everyone within the group equal credit, even though they were frequently associated with different institutions and organizations.

 

 

 

Régis Bador 2013

Régis Bador, who was part of the Aquacop Group and later went on to work on many private sector shrimp farming projects, got the idea for this report and put the pressure on Alain Michel to write it.  Bador coordinated the collection of additional information for the report and edited the English.  Currently, Bador markets innovative products to shrimp farmers around the world.  His webpage address is http://innovaquaculture.com.

 

 

Sopomer Intensive Shrimp Farm in Tahiti 1988

This is the story of the scientific and technical team at the Centre Océanologique du Pacifique (COP), part of the French government institute CNEXO/IFREMER.  Located in Tahiti, French Polynesia, COP developed and transferred shrimp farming to the private sector through France Aquaculture, a subsidiary of CNEXO.  The team was young in the early 1970s, and its first members are now retired or are thinking about retirement.  They wish to be remembered for their important accomplishments to the early development of shrimp farming, accomplishments that have often been overlooked by the English speaking shrimp farming pioneers in the United States.

 

The Aquacop Group: The Aquacop Group was composed of scientists origination from several integrated institutions and organizations within the French Government, first as CNEXO (below) and then as IFREMER (below).

 

• CNEXO (Centre National Pour l'Exploitation des Oceans, National Center for
Ocean Exploitation)

• IFREMER (Institut Français de Recherche pour L'Exploitation de la Mer, French

Research Institute for Sea Exploitation)

• COP (Centre Océanologique du Pacifique, The Pacific Oceanographic Centre),
one of the R&D centers of CNEXO/IFREMER

• France Aquaculture (a subsidiary of CNEXO/IFREMER for transferring technolog
to the private sector)

• Aquacop (The name the COP team used in its publications)

 

 

 

It All Started with General Charles de Gaulle

 

General Charles de Gaulle

In the early 1960s, General Charles de Gaulle, President of France at the time, decided to move France’s atomic tests from the Sahara Desert in North Africa to the Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia.  At about the same time, to unify all French organizations and universities with activities in marine research, he created the National Centre for Sea Exploitation (CNEXO).  Then, in his first speech to the French Polynesian people, he said, “Your future is in the sea”, and in 1970 created the Centre Océanologique du Pacifique (COP), a marine research center in Tahiti, French Polynesia.

 

Two people played key roles in the development of France’s shrimp farming program: Dr. François Doumenge and Jacques Perrot.  While working on Mediterranean fisheries, Dr. Doumenge, a geography professor at France’s Montpellier University, came across some Japanese research on shrimp farming.  In 1968, he convinced a French company, Transat, to invest in shrimp farming at two locations, one in France in the south of Brittany and the other in the Ivory Coast, Africa.  For the farm in France, Transat purchased Japanese technology for farming Penaeus japonicus from Dr. Motosaku Fujinaga, who, after the Second World War, developed seed production technology from wild-caught mature shrimp.  The research was written in Japanese and looked very secret and complex, but when translated, it provided a good starting point for the French researchers.  In the Ivory Coast, Transat chose a local species, P. duorarum, for its trials.  Both projects produced interesting technical results, but were not profitable and were closed in the early 1970s.  Some young French scientists like Daniel Cognie received good training at these projects, and he and others continued to further the cause of shrimp farming after the original projects ended.

 

In the early 1970s, Dr. Doumenge became the head of the fishery department at the South Pacific Commission, which started the development of shrimp farming in the South Pacific by creating the Station de Saint Vincent in New Caledonia, later incorporated into the CNEXO/COP organization.  Dr. Doumenge was colorful and passionate about shrimp farming, able to convince anybody of its importance.

 

The second important person in the development of France’s shrimp farming program was Jacques Perrot, a former Navy officer who worked with General de Gaulle during the Second World War and was the first Secretary General of CNEXO.  Since marine aquaculture was not part of any other government agency, Perrot developed laboratory facilities for shrimp and fish culture in Brest, France (Brittany) and in Tahiti.  Under the leadership of Lucien Laubier, a scientific advisor at CNEXO, the laboratories rapidly hired many young scientists attracted by this pioneering work.

 

In 1978, when Perrot left his position as CNEXO Secretary General, he created France Aquaculture, a subsidiary designed to transfer CNEXO’s aquaculture technology to the private sector.  In 1984, France Aquaculture became a subsidiary of IFREMER, the new name for CNEXO.  Jacques Perrot was France Aquaculture’s general manager for more than ten years.  IFREMER/France Aquaculture worked very closely with the Centre Océanologique du Pacifique in Tahiti and the Station de Saint Vincent in New Caledonia to develop private sector shrimp farming projects around the world.

 

All the French shrimp researchers owe their careers to the strong will of Doumenge and Perrot!

 

So that postlarvae would not have to be imported from Japan, IFREMER’s scientists conducted their first research in the temperate climate of Brest, France, focusing on captive reproduction of P. japonicus.  Using light and temperature regulation, a team headed by Dr. Annie Laubier-Bonichon had produced the first successful spawning of japonicus in 1974.  Growout was done by private parties in extensive ponds in southern and western France.  Production was never very impressive because low temperatures restricted growout to only a few months a year, but the product was high quality and sold at high prices in expensive restaurants.  As a result of this early research, François René (who later was more involved in fish culture), Philippe Serene, Philippe Lucet and Jean-François Le Bitoux played key roles in transferring this technology to companies like Salins du Midi, Les Compagnons de Maguelonne and Marie-Aude.

 

In Brest, in the 1980s, researchers Chantal Cahu and Christian Fauvel studied the hormonal regulation, maturation and spawning of tropical shrimp.

 

In 1972, some small-scale farming of the local brown shrimp (Penaeus aztecus) was done in French Guyana, South America, in a salt-water swamp near the Maroni River.  It was initiated by an ORSTOM biologist and funded by a fishing company and the French government, following the design of an experimental shrimp farm in New Caledonia.  After four growout trials in ten 500-square-meter ponds, it was concluded that (Penaeus aztecus) was not suitable for farming because it stopped growing when it reached sexual maturity at 12 grams.  This confirmed the results of similar trials in Texas (USA).

 

 

 

The Centre Océanologique du Pacifique

 

CNEXO began construction on The Centre Océanologique du Pacifique in 1970.  It used the deserted facilities of an army camp located on the Vairao Lagoon in western Tahiti that had the advantage of a large supply of clean, oceanic water with temperatures between 26° and 29°C coming into the lagoon over the barrier reef and flowing back to the ocean via a deep gorge.

 

Jean de Chazeaux, the first director of the center, a dynamic leader, fought hard for the COP budget, so the research facilities expanded rapidly, mainly for tropical aquaculture, but COP also conducted research on harvesting metallic nodules from the sea floor and the development of ocean thermal energy with the futuristic idea of using the deep, nutrient-rich water for the mass production of algae.

 

The Aquacop Team

The Aquacop Team 1987–1988

 

From the beginning, COP developed a team approach.  Biologists, nutritionists, pathologists, water quality and technology specialists were the core of the team, later to be complemented with physiologists and geneticists—all following a multidisciplinary approach, hoping to solve the problem of breeding and farming shrimp.  All their research was published under the team name, Aquacop.  It was not the traditional way to report research, where individualism is the standard, but it helped to develop a strong team spirit.

 

The core of the first team was a pool of very young scientists who were recent university graduates like Jean-Michel Griessinger, who later worked on freshwater prawn culture in French Guyana; Gérard Cuzon, a nutritionist, Jean-Louis Martin, an algologist; and Jacques Calvas, a water quality specialist.  COP’s first pathologist was Jean-François Le Bitoux, followed by Gilles Breuil who brought a veterinarian’s knowledge into the aquaculture sector.  The engineer was Jean-François Virmaux, who later designed most of France Aquaculture’s shrimp farming projects.

 

As the project grew, the following people joined the team: Philippe-Jacques Hatt, Olivier Millous, Pierre Garen, Jean Goguenheim, Alain Mailion, Joseph Mazurie, Edouard Bedier, Jacques Patrois, François Fallourd, Serge Brouillet, Daniel Cognie, Denis Coatanea, Alain Febvre and Jean-Paul Blancheton.  After them, Maurice Weppe, a medical doctor who preferred to apply his knowledge to the aquaculture field, and Gilles Le Moullac, a shrimp physiologist, joined the team.

 

These people were followed by skilled technicians from France and Tahiti: Yvon Normand, Gerard Joncquieres, Stéphane Robert, Jean Marie Peignon, Vincent Vonau, Auguste Bennet and many others.  Every year, COP hosted six to ten recently graduated scientists who were fulfilling their 18-month military obligations.  More than one hundred were trained at COP and many of them went on to careers in aquaculture.  Denis Lacroix and Hubert Crieloue were involved with freshwater prawn farming in the French West Indies and French Guyana, while Bertrand Couteaux, Christophe Guy, Régis Bador, Olivier Millous, Gilles Boisson, Serge Brouillet, Gérard Descamps and Jacques Trichereau concentrated on shrimp farming.

 

COP also trained people hired by France Aquaculture who were later assigned to ongoing projects.  Olivier Avalle worked in Madagascar; Edouard Klotz and Thomas Requillard in New Caledonia; Pierre Roffino in Malaysia; Philippe Danigo and Elisabeth Lebègue in Ecuador and Colombia; Jean-Marc Delaune in Fiji and Sri Lanka; and Philippe Ruez in Ecuador, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and finally in Madagascar.

 

The team of the Station de Saint Vincent in New Caledonia was closely linked with the COP team and many team members worked in both places.  After the pioneering work of François Fallourd, Michel Autrand was the first to produce postlarvae in New Caledonia, and then he became a permanent member of France Aquaculture.  He was followed by Joseph Mazurie, Denis Coatanea and later by a team of young New Caledonian scientists still active in the industry today, among them: Christian Galinie, Denis Goxe, Dominique Pham and Laurent Ottogalli.

 

When Alain Michel became the head of AQUACOP at the Centre Océanologique du Pacifique in 1972, scientists did not know how to breed shrimp in captivity, and the lab was in a location where there were no wild penaeids, so Michel embarked on a world tour to discover what other labs around the world were doing in this area.  He and Jean-Michel Griessinger, a young biologist from Marseille University who had just finished his military obligations in Tahiti, embarked on an extensive tour of shrimp research facilities in Japan and the United States.

 

They started their tour at the National Marine Fisheries Service Lab in Milford, Connecticut, USA, where Ravanna Ukeles told them about the culture of unicellular algae.  Then, they visited Savannah, Georgia, where they saw the first recirculating system for catfish and a shrimp nutrition laboratory.  At Miami University, they visited Florida Power and Light’s Turkey Point facilities, where shrimp research was just beginning.  In Florida, they also visited Marifarms, Inc., in Panama City, a private sector venture that had adapted Japanese hatchery technology and stocked a large, netted-off bay with shrimp.  In Louisiana, they visited the Grande Terre Lab, which was growing shrimp in ponds, and, in Texas, they met Sam Parish, a pioneer in shrimp culture, who showed them his shrimp ponds and the pellets he was using to feed the shrimp.  At Texas A&M University, they met Zula Zein Eldin, who was doing research on shrimp nutrition, and then at the National Marine Fisheries Services’ Lab in Galveston, they met Corny Mock, who they described as “a man you cannot forget once you have met him”, and no one will argue with that!

 

Mock introduced them to what became the future of shrimp hatcheries, “the Galveston Method” of growing shrimp larvae in small-volume tanks with conical bottoms and clear water, rather than in the cruder large tanks with green water developed by the Japanese.  Later Mock was the first to send postlarvae (P. aztecus and P. setiferus) to the Centre Océanologique du Pacifique in Tahiti.  Richard Neal, who years later was involved with ICLARM in tropical aquaculture in the Philippines, was the director of the Galveston Lab at the time, and he showed Michel and Griessinger some experimental shrimp ponds on the Texas coast.  On that tour, they heard about Ralston Purina’s work with shrimp farming in Crystal River, Florida, and Panama.  They met Dr. Charles Caillouet who told them about his trials to trigger shrimp reproduction by using eyestalk ablation—with the conclusion it did not work!  After visiting the shrimp research facilities in southeastern United States, they flew to the West Coast and visited the Granite Canyon Laboratory near Monterey, California, where researchers were working on the deep water shrimp Syciona ingentis.

 

Michel and Griessinger ended their tour of the USA at the Oceanic Institute in Hawaii where they met John Bardach who had written one of the first books on aquaculture.  They also met the pioneer of mullet culture Ziad Shehadeh and a young scientist working on rabbitfish, Jim Mac Vey.  Their most exciting encounter was with Dr. Takuji Fujimura at the Hawaiian Division of Fish and Game, who was working on the culture of Macrobrachium rosenbergii, the giant freshwater prawn.  They saw his outdoor hatchery that was using Japanese technology, the green water method in large tanks.  Fujimura also had some earthen ponds where he was training young biologists from all over the world on how to farm prawns.  At that time, Griessinger had no idea he would eventually be involved in developing freshwater prawn culture, first in Tahiti and then in French Guyana, using a clear water technique developed in Tahiti that included conical-bottomed tanks, high density stocking and micro-particulate feed.

 

 

Japan

 

After the tour of the United States, Griessinger and Michel flew to Japan.  They were accompanied by a young scientist named Arnaud Mueller-Fega, who was a member of the Maison Franco Japonaise, a foundation for the development and exchange of science and culture between France and Japan, and spoke enough Japanese to guide them.  Mueller-Fega was also interested aquaculture and later became one of the main aquaculturists at CNEXO’s research center in Brest, France, where he used reactors to produce unicellular algal.

 

They started their Japanese tour at Dr. Motosaku Fujinaga’s laboratory, already well known for its research on P. japonicus.  Fujinaga used big, deep, square tanks to hold wild-caught gravid female shrimp for two to three days until they spawned.  Once they spawned, they were removed and the water was fertilized to produce diatoms for the nauplii to feed on until they metamorphosed into the mysis stage, at which time they were fed Artemia.  The tanks were harvested when the postlarvae were big enough to stock ponds or to restock the sea.  It was crude technology, but well mastered by the Japanese technicians, and people from all over the world visited the lab.  To license the technology was a little naïve because it was so dependent on local conditions and not easy to replicable.  Dr. Fujinaga deserves the title: “The Father of Shrimp Farming”.

 

After Fujinaga’s laboratory, they visited some prefectural laboratories around the Inland Sea where the main program was restocking of the sea through mass production of P. japonicus postlarvae.  Nobody knew if these programs increased commercial fishery catches, but the fishermen liked them.  Tagging techniques were not existent and genetic identification was not even foreseen at the time.

 

Next, they went to Kagoshima and met Dr. Akio Kanazawa, who was working on crustacean nutrition, and Dr. Kuni Shigueno, who was developing large, circular, cement tanks with double bottoms that allowed water to circulate up though the bottom sand, providing good conditions for intensive culture of P. japonicus, a burrowing species.

 

They finished the Japanese tour with thousands of P. japonicus postlarvae in oxygenated plastic bags in their luggage, a gift from Dr. Motosaku Fujinaga.  Flying back to Paris, their plane had a problem in Anchorage, Alaska, and it was delayed for a day.  Fortunately, they got help from airport firemen who gave them access to oxygen, which saved the shrimp.  The incident was reported the next day in the Anchorage newspaper.

 

The information from their tour became the technical and scientific foundation of the first research work in Tahiti.  The work in the USA laboratories was scientifically based, but, at the time, it was the pragmatism of the Japanese approach that was fueling the development of shrimp farming around the world.

 

After the tour, however, they still did not know how to reproduce shrimp in captivity.

 

They solved that problem for the main commercial tropical species in the late 1970s.

 

 

 

Freshwater Prawn Farming at Centre Océanologique du Pacifique (COP)

 

Jean Francois Virmaux and Alain Michel 1986

The first research done by the COP team was with the freshwater prawn Macrobrachium rosenbergii.  Wild prawns were being overexploited, and there was a need to develop farming.  Knowing what was done by Dr. Takuji Fujimura in Hawaii and the constraints of the green water method, COP researchers decided to develop a more controlled technique, which Dr. Paul Sandifer, a USA researcher who later developed the Mariculture Research Center in South Carolina, labeled the “French clear water technique”.  Using conical-bottomed, two-cubic-meter tanks, the system yielded around 100 postlarvae per liter.  Later, ten-cubic-meter tanks with U-shaped bottoms were used to increase production.  The COP researchers started with a flow through system and then quickly shifted to a recirculating system using a biological filter made from small pieces of coral that had the secondary advantage of buffering pH.  They discovered that the color of the tank walls was directly linked to the capacity for the larvae to seize prey and that smooth walls did not allow the postlarvae to settle.

 

 

Centre Océanologique du Pacifique (COP) 1970s

 

The first prawn farm, Aquapac, was built along a river in Tahiti near the COP research center.  It practiced continuous partial harvesting and restocking.

 

Countries in the French West Indies were eager to develop freshwater prawn farming.  Development started in the Martinique and Guadeloupe islands, where prawns were produced for local markets, and in French Guyana, where they were produced for the export market.  The biggest bottleneck was lack of postlarvae, so COP built and ran three prawn hatcheries.  The one in French Guyana had a recirculating water system and was the most advanced.  All the work was done by a team trained in Tahiti and headed by Jean-Michel Griessinger and included Denis Lacroix, Hubert Crieloue and others.  The engineering was done by France Aquaculture.

 

 

Centre Océanologique du Pacifique (COP) 1990s

 

Later on, Hubert Crieloue was assigned to a prawn hatchery project in Vietnam.  Around this time, there were a lot of non-Aquacop prawn farming projects around the world.  Spencer Malecha was growing prawns in Hawaii; Paul Sandifer started the Waddell Mariculture Center in South Carolina; and John Glude started a large prawn farm in Puerto Rico.

 

Except for some small farms that served small, local markets, prawn farming was not profitable.  The problem was the difficulty in obtaining high yields on a regular basis.  When using the partial harvest and restocking method, organic matter accumulated on the bottom of the ponds, and dominant males prevented smaller males from growing.  The hope was to produce two metric tons per hectare, but the farms were only able to average around on ton per hectare.

 

The Aquapac farm in Tahiti, run by Pierre Roffino, tried to improve yields by shifting from continuous partial harvest to a two-stage system with a high-density nursery phase and a low-density (four to five animals per square meter) growout phase.  This system was easier to manage, and yields increased to 1.5 metric tons per hectare, still not enough to make a profit, even with high prices for fresh product in local markets.  Since most of the broodstock for this project were from the small population of animals introduced into Hawaii by Takuji Fujimura, inbreeding was often blamed for the low production, but that was never documented and the reintroduction of new genetic lines from Southeast Asia did not improve yields.

 

In the early 1970s, there was more interest in freshwater prawn farming than in marine shrimp farming, but that changed quickly when the production from marine shrimp ponds far outpaced those from prawn ponds.  Large-scale prawn farming never caught on around the world.

 

 

 

Alain Michel

 

Alain Michel 1972

Born in Versailles, France, in 1937, Michel received a degree in Agriculture Engineering from The National Agronomical Institute in Paris in 1957, where he majored in chemistry.  After fulfilling his military obligation as a naval deck officer in Tahiti, he pursued studies in oceanography at Paris University.  He then joined ORSTOM, now IRD, and worked in Noumea, New Caledonia, from 1965 to 1972 as a biologist doing research on the tuna food chain in the south Pacific.  Later, he studied the plankton around Mururoa Atoll after the French A-bomb tests in the mid 1960s.  Next, he joined a newly created French government agency, CNEXO, to investigate the potential of aquaculture in French Polynesia.  He participated in the development of the Centre Océanologique du Pacifique (COP), a new laboratory in Tahiti and conducted, with a team of biologists, the first aquaculture studies on freshwater prawns, marine shrimp, mollusks and finfish.  In the 1980s, thanks to its research results, the COP team, known under the name “Aquacop” in its publications, was involved in the development of the shrimp farming industry with private companies in many tropical countries.  Its members pioneered the mass production of postlarvae in hatcheries from captive shrimp.  All the fieldwork was done through France Aquaculture, a subsidiary of CNEXO/IFREMER created to transfer the technology to private companies in foreign countries.

 

From 1983 to 1986, Michel worked at IFREMER’s headquarters in Paris where he was in charge of aquaculture research.  Then, he returned to Tahiti as the director of the Centre Océanologique du Pacifique until 1990.

 

In 1990 he was hired by Sanofi, a pharmaceutical company, and served as general manager of Sanofi Aquaculture until 1993.

 

Until his retirement in 2000, he was director of the fishery and aquaculture research departments at IFREMER.

 

 

Marine Shrimp Farming 1970-1980

Laboratory Research and Developing Protocols

 

Shrimp News: From here to the end of this report, the voice shifts to that of Alain Michel, who tells The Centre Océanologique du Pacifique story as it progressed through three periods: 1970 to 1980, 1980 to 1990 and 1990 to 1995.  Michel begins with the early lab work at COP and then focuses on the transfer of COP’s technology to private sector projects around the world.

 

Reproduction in Captivity from Imported Postlarvae: Since there were no wild shrimp in Tahitian waters that had potential for farming, our researchers worked with postlarvae and adults imported from other countries.  The first shrimp to arrive were some P. occidentalis adults that survived the long trip on a ship from Panama to Mururoa, an atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia, and then a flight to Tahiti.  Eventually, they all died, but some were still alive on arrival.  Next, we imported some P. japonicus and P. aztecus postlarvae from Corny Mock in Texas, USA.  At the same time, we had a close relationship with the Station de Saint Vincent in New Caledonia, funded by the South Pacific Commission where Professor Doumenge, François Fallourd and Dan Popper were doing the first growout trials with P. merguiensis, P. semisulcatus, P. monodon and Metapenaeus ensis in a one-hectare earthen pond.  Later, Michel Autrand, a geography student working with Professor Doumenge, who had just finished his military obligations in the New Hebrides Islands, also worked on this project.  All the postlarvae were flown in from New Caledonia.  The P. merguiensis and M. ensis arrived in plastic bottles that the stewardesses regularly filled with oxygen during the flight.  At COP, they were stocked in a 400 m2 rectangular tank with a sand bottom.  Incoming water flowed up through the sand to the surface.  This system was suitable for burrowing species like P. japonicus and M. ensis.  The tank yielded 20 kilos of juveniles, which we stocked in a pond.

 

Shrimp Eyestalk Removal: During this period, almost every day, I would put on a diving mask, get into the tanks and observe shrimp behavior.  This allowed us to catch and correct problems before they become serious.  Thanks to the clear water in the tanks, I observed one batch of P. aztecus from the postlarval stage all the way through to the adult stage.

 

One day in 1974, I saw a female shrimp whose ovaries were developing.  One of her eyes was missing, probably lost during a molt.  Two days later I noticed another maturing female with only one eye.  These one-eyed, maturing shrimp brought back memories of an old French publication about inducing sexual maturity in crabs by cutting off one eyestalk—and Charles Caillouet’s comments about eyestalk ablation not working in penaeids.  Nonetheless, I thought it was worth trying, so the next day, I pinched off one eye of seven P. aztecus females that had a white sperm mass in their closed thelycum.  By the next week, they all spawned viable eggs.  The same ablation technique worked on P. merguiensis, P. japonicus and M. ensis.  The results of this research were published in the 1975 proceedings of the World Mariculture Society, later to be renamed the World Aquaculture Society.  We developed a full maturation room with twelve, ten-cubic-meter circular tanks.  I think we were the first shrimp researchers to use rolls of thin fiberglass to build our tanks.  We even used fiberglass to make algal culture cylinders.

 

Exchange with Other Groups: To stay in touch with the other scientists working on shrimp farming, we regularly presented papers at the World Mariculture Society’s annual meetings.  Everyone at those meetings was conscious of how little we knew about shrimp farming, and everyone would openly discuss their ongoing research and their findings.

 

After presenting our first spawning results, I was contacted by Harvey Persyn, manager of Ralston Purina’s shrimp research project in Crystal River, Florida, USA, who asked me if he could come to Tahiti and visit with our team and see our facilities.  The answer was yes—if he would let me visit his facilities in Florida and Panama.  He agreed.  He came to Tahiti and took some P. merguiensis back to Florida that he later spawned.  Then I went to Crystal River where I saw, for the first time tanks, operated as biofloc systems.  The tanks were covered with 50 centimeters of foam and the water was really dirty, but the shrimp were growing very fast and were perfectly healthy with long antennae and no black necrosis.  I also visited Ron Staha at Ralston Purina’s first commercial hatchery in Vera Cruz, Panama.  At that time, Purina was still fishing for gravid (with eggs) P. stylirostris females at night.  The hatchery was utilizing big tanks and was very successful.

 

I also visited the Ralston Purina farm in Aguadulce, where I met Yosuke Hirono, a famous shrimp farming pioneer.  When I got back to Tahiti, Harvey sent me some P. vannamei and P. stylirostris postlarvae, and we also exchanged strains of unicellular algae.  Later, Joe Mountain, another pioneer at the Ralston Purina project, visited our center in Tahiti.

 

Starting in 1975, we experienced a very exciting period of sharing what we were discovering.  Here is a quote from an airmail letter I got from Harvey Persyn in 1975: “I will gladly supply you with P. vannamei and P. stylirostris postlarvae.  It will be of major interest to me if you can mature and spawn these species in the lab.”  And, in 1976, we got the first spawnings.

 

In November 1975, Persyn wrote: “How are your P. monodon doing.  I hope you are able to spawn them.”  Just after that, we got 18 spawnings from eight P. monodon females in two months.  And after that Persyn wrote: “I believe your CNEXO team is doing some of the best work in the world todayWe were very proud of this compliment.

 

Harvey told me about artificial insemination, and I still have the drawing he sent to me that explained how to do it We discovered the potential of polyculturing very low densities of P. stylirostris with P. monodon.  We stocked 180 stylirostris postlarvae with 40,000 P. monodon and the “stylies” reached 18 grams in two months.  That was the starting point of our captive stylirostris broodstock program, which is still being maintained in Tahiti and in New Caledonia.  We kept P. vannamei going in Tahiti until 2000, producing a new generation every year since 1975.  We got good results using the Shigueno Feed from Japan, and Joe Mountain, who worked for Harvey at the Purina project in Florida, told us about the good luck he was having with polychaete worms.

 

The source of our P. monodon broodstock was Fiji.  Dan Popper and I caught them in the Lautoka Mangrove in 1975.  This was the starting point of our monodon breeding program.  We were able to keep monodon in captivity through successive generations until 1990 when we stopped because the water temperatures at our lab were too low for monodon during the cold months. I presented the results on closing the life cycle of vannamei, stylirostris and monodon at the World Mariculture Society meeting in Hawaii in 1979.  It was a real turning point for world shrimp farming.  The spawning of captive broodstock put our team, a small group of researchers in the middle of nowhere in the South Pacific, on the map!

 

The initial constraint of no species of shrimp with farming potential around Tahiti forced us to learn how to breed shrimp in captivity.  Members of our team regularly went to aquaculture meetings or visited foreign countries to spread the word about shrimp breeding, and we had good links with researchers doing similar work in other countries, like Corny Mock at the Galveston Laboratory in Texas, USA, Dr. Liao at the Tungkang Marine Laboratory in Taiwan, and Jurgenne Primavera at ICLARM in the Philippines.  Jurgenne was a pioneer in P. monodon farming in the Philippines, along with the late Tirso Jamandre and his daughter Dawn Jamandre.  We imported some strains of P. monodon and P. indicus from them.  The P. indicus became a model for reproduction research because it was easy to bring into sexual maturity at a small size.

 

Captive breeding was our first major achievement, and our techniques were duplicated around the world.  We used clear, oceanic water, warm temperatures, a photoperiod of 14 hours of light, eyestalk ablation and high quality pellets, along with some fresh squid and mussel.  Under these conditions, some P. monodon females spawned as many as six times during an intermolt period!  We mass produced postlarvae using techniques developed at the Galveston Lab in Texas.  Jean-Louis Martin and Gérard Joncquieres isolated a strain of Isochrysis, a microalgae, to feed shrimp larvae, which was later used in many laboratories under the name “Tahitian Isochrysis”.

 

During larvae culture, our tanks had some problems with fungal diseases (Lagedinium) that Jean-François Le Bitoux treated with a drop-by-drop procedure of Treflan for 24 hours.  We treated bacterial proliferation in the gut with Gallimycin and other antibiotics delivered every other day in the water.  I must confess that we never discovered why this worked, even after detailed studies about the evolution of the bacterial fauna, but it worked.  We learned that it was necessary to do a complete dry-out after two or three larval production cycles.  Gérard Cuzon developed postlarvae feeds that incorporated different local ingredients and micro-particulate feeds based on the feeds we were using for freshwater prawn larvae.   He later become the first president of the working group on shrimp nutrition. Jacques Calvas and Jean-Paul Blancheton developed recirculating systems to improve water quality during larvae culture.

 

 

 Marine Shrimp Farming 1980-1990

France Aquaculture, The Pioneering Phase, Technology Transfer

 

In 1980 after the notoriety of having built the first big commercial shrimp hatchery in the world in Ecuador (more about this below), we began to transfer our technology to shrimp hatcheries and shrimp farms all over the world.

 

To be at the crossroads of research and commercial development was a very interesting and exciting experience for our team.  At our labs in Tahiti and at the Station de Saint Vincent in New Caledonia, we used our research results to immediately develop new pilot-scale techniques and then quickly introduced the new techniques into our commercial projects, a process that always resulted in another round of questions and research.  This circular approach was very fruitful, and we were constantly refining our technology.

 

In the early 1980s, we began to investigate biofloc techniques for growout and for maintaining broodstock.  We stocked some heavily aerated, lined, circular, 1,000-square-meter tanks with P. indicus that we got from Dr. Liao in Taiwan.  With little water exchange, we were able to produce a high biomass of small shrimp.  Unfortunately in high-density systems, P. indicus growth stops at about six grams, so we transferred this technique to a private farm that had ten 1,000-square-meter, hard bottom ponds.  We aerated the ponds with AirO2 aerators, stocked them with P. vannamei and harvested more than 20 metric tons a year of 15-gram shrimp.  After several years, however, mortalities increased and the yields dropped.  We were never able to figure out what went wrong.  That’s when we decided to shift from P. vannamei to P. stylirostris and were astonished to see that the good yields came back.  We guessed that the bacterial fauna of P. vannamei had become opportunistic pathogens that were not harmful to P. stylirostris.  Species rotation could be the answer for this type of problem, but it has not been tested.

 

We also ran some salinity studies and learned that P. vannamei thrive at very low salinity levels, so we pumped some seawater into one of Aquapac’s freshwater prawn ponds and stocked it with vannamei.  Immediately, the farm’s yield jumped from one metric ton per hectare of Macrobrachium to five to seven metric tons of vannamei, making the farm profitable for the first time.

 

The most interesting application of the floc technique was in small, ten-cubic-meter, fiberglass, circular, flat bottomed, heavily aerated, broodstock tanks for P. vannamei and P. stylirostris.  The water was loaded with organic matter and bacteria, but growth was better than in traditional ponds or in clear water tanks.  It was an application of what I had seen at Ralston Purina’s Crystal River Lab a few years before.

 

We developed a system that introduced new broodstock every three months.  Females were ablated and kept in tanks with controlled light to bring them into sexual maturity, and then they were artificially inseminated with the sperm from two spermatophores.  The time window where good spawns could be obtained was narrow, less than two months.  If ablation was done too soon or too late, the results were low or nothing at all.  The right time for eyestalk removal is when ovarian enlargement begins.  To run a hatchery on a year-round basis, we learned that it was necessary to have at least six batches of broodstock and that a dedicated broodstock team, separate from the growout team, needed to be employed.

 

Male and female shrimp were mixed together in maturation tanks to obtain eggs from closed thelycum species, but the sexes were kept separated for open thelycum species like P. vannamei and P. stylirostris, which were artificially inseminated.  Batch production, with regular dry outs, prevented opportunistic bacteria from causing disease problems.

 

Maintaining captive broodstock is the key to avoiding the introduction of pathogens from wild animals and for capturing the genetic improvements that occur from natural selection and breeding programs.

 

We tried to convince farmers to forget about wild postlarvae and broodstock and to concentrate on captive breeding.  In the 1980s and even into the early 1990s viral diseases had not yet become the problem they are today, so farmers stuck with their traditional practice of using wild broodstock and postlarvae.  It was not until the late 1990s, due to the spread of shrimp viral diseases around the world, that the importance of captive broodstock came to the fore.  With the introduction of P. vannamei in Southeast Asia and the development of specific pathogen free postlarvae, that trend has accelerated.  Colombia was one of the earliest adopters of captive broodstock because the shrimp farmers on its Atlantic Coast did not have access to wild P. vannamei broodstock.

 

In Tahiti, we maintained 30 generations of P. vannamei from postlarvae originally imported from Panama in 1975, and in New Caledonia, hatcheries are still working with P. stylirostris that have been in captivity for more than 30 generations.  Geneticists warn us about the detrimental effects of inbreeding, but, so far, there is no evidence that it is occurring.  For sure, genetic variability has been reduced, but it appears that high mortalities during larval culture and relatively high mortalities during growout cull out the weaker animals.

 

France Aquaculture: At the beginning of the 1980s, our Aquacop team was the only group with extensive experience in captive reproduction of the four most popular species for shrimp farming: P. vannamei, P. monodon, P. stylirostris and P. indicus.  We used our private sector subsidiary, France Aquaculture, to transfer our technology to shrimp farms and hatcheries worldwide.  We quickly learned that private sector entrepreneurs were more likely to succeed with our technology than governments, bankers and grand planners.

 

Technology Transfer: Some of our projects from 1980 to 1990:

 

Fiji: This project was initiated by Jean De Chazeaux and the French Ambassador in Fiji.  It was set up as a joint venture between the French and the Fiji governments, under the administrative management of the Fijian Ministry of Agriculture.  The purpose was to start a pilot farm for shrimp in Lautoka, Fijian, where, earlier, I had collected the first P. monodon introduced into Tahiti.  Because the environment was similar to New Caledonia’s, we decided to introduce P. stylirostris from our captive broodstock.  Jean-François Virmaux helped us develop a pre-fabricated hatchery that could be shipped anywhere in a container.  We named the hatchery “MIRDA” for Module Integrated Research Development Aquaculture.  We built and tested it at COP, then sent it to Fiji, where it was assembled and began producing postlarvae.  This project was launched by Olivier Millous, and then managed by Jean-Marc Delaune, and finally by Gilles Boisson.  Owned by the Fijian Government for several years, it was later taken over by Australian interests.

 

Sodacal Farm New Caledonia 1990

New Caledonia: In New Caledonia, we used everything we learned from our research at COP and the Station de Saint Vincent to launch a sustainable shrimp farming industry.  Many species (P. merguiensis, P. monodon, P. indicus, P. vannamei, P. aztecus, P. japonicus, Metapenaeus monoceros and P. semisulcatus) were considered for this project, but P. stylirostris, an exotic species, was chosen because it could tolerate the cool temperatures (18-20°C) during New Caledonia’s relatively mild winters.  Those stocks of P. stylirostris have been maintained in captivity for more that 30 generations and are sill in use today.  We developed five to ten-hectare, semi-intensive growout ponds in cooperation with private interests.  They were built on intertidal salt flats, similar to the salt flats in Ecuador that are between the mangroves and higher ground.  Because these were public lands with no competition from other activities, there were no objections to using them.  No mangroves were destroyed.  Instead, the mangroves were used to filter the low-sediment discharges from the ponds before they returned to the lagoons.  Feed was produced locally from imported ingredients.  This approach was quite successful.  The first large farm of 130 hectares produced 440 metric tons in 1991, and, in 2006, total production in New Caledonia reached 2,600 metric tons.  The IHHN virus, which occurs in P. stylirostris elsewhere in the world, does not affect P. stylirostris in New Caledonia, thanks to the domestication of the strain.

 

The results we had with P. vannamei, P. stylirostris, P. monodon and P. indicus, many of which originated from populations of only a few animals, seem to be in contradiction with the well known detrimental effects of inbreeding in mammals, probably because penaeids are very fecund animals that function quite differently from species with few progeny.  In fact, we observed improved performance as the genetic variability of the animals decreased.  Why would this happen?  For thirty generations, we selected the fastest growing animals as breeders and used only those females that were able to mature and spawn in captivity.  They all had survived the rigors of the pond life and the local environmental conditions.  Only the most adapted had survived, while billions of others died between the egg and the adult stages.  Each new generation was finely tuned to grow and survive.

 

 

Station Saint Vincent New Caledonia 1980

At the beginning, we were not really aware of what we were doing because we were struggling just to produce enough postlarvae.  We discovered the improvement in our strain of P. stylirostris by challenging it with IHHN virus provided by Dr. Lightner, the famous shrimp virus specialist from the University of Arizona in the United States.  We injected our strain with IHHN, and that did not induce the disease.  Our P. stylirostris had become IHHN resistant!  Today, the shrimp farming industry concentrates on specific pathogen free animals, but breeding for resistance may be a better path to follow.  High fecundity may be a way that some species create diversity.

 

Australia: Through France Aquaculture and with private Swiss investors, we worked on some shrimp farming proposals in Australia, but they never reached the starting point.

 

Ecuador: In the Americas, we were fortunate to team up with aggressive entrepreneurs who early on foresaw the huge potential of shrimp farming.  In Ecuador, one encounter propelled our group from a research team lost in the middle of nowhere in the South Pacific into a major player in the burgeoning shrimp farming industries of the early 1970s.  That encounter was with Peter Shayne, a USA entrepreneur working for the Morrisson Group in Ecuador, where the first big farms got started in the early 1970s using huge ponds stocked with wild P. vannamei postlarvae.  Kenneth and Milton Morrison, farmers from the state of Nebraska in USA, understood agribusiness and quickly realized the potential of shrimp farming in Ecuador.  Peter Shayne, a visionary, realized that the industry would have to be built on hatchery produced seedstock and feed mills.

 

For our group, the relationship with the Morrissons and Shane began after my presentation on the reproduction in captivity of tropical shrimp at the 1979 World Aquaculture Society meeting in Hawaii, USA.  I was climbing the steps of the conference room when I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I turned and faced Peter Shane, who point-blank said: “Can I come to see your Center in Tahiti, and when can you come to Ecuador?”  Everything after that happened very quickly!  He and the Morrison brothers visited us in Tahiti.  They saw that we had captive broodstock of many species, among them P. vannamei, P. stylirostris and P. monodon, the most promising species for commercial production.

 

At that time, the Morrissons and Peter Shane were already in discussions with Ralston Purina about hatchery technology, but they had difficulty getting Purina to sign a contract because of the slow decision making process at such a large corporation.  The Morrissons asked us if we would be their hatchery consultant.  Our answer was yes, but we said that it had to be done through our commercial subsidiary France Aquaculture.  We had a very long meeting with them to define what would be the basis of the contract.  We agreed to design, build and equip the hatchery, supply technical assistance, supply two biologists to start the farm, and train a local team of workers.  It was a two-year contract with full back up from COP.  We were very honest with them, telling them that it would be a big jump in scale for us because we had to scale our lab achievements to an industrial scale.  But they bet on us.  I remember a very exciting dinner at my beach home where we were dreaming of and speculating about hatcheries producing billions of postlarvae.  Semacua, the first large-scale commercial shrimp hatchery in the world, was created out of those dreams, and it still exists today.

 

Soon after that, the secretary general of France Aquaculture joined me in the USA to sign the contract.  Peter Shayne got married at that time to a charming woman, and I flew with them to Guayaquil where our main engineer, Jean-François Virmaux, joined us to go to Salinas to see the site of the future hatchery.  Our engineering team delivered the first design within a month, and construction started soon thereafter.  The first technical team to start the project was headed by Jean-François Le Bitoux, our vet at that time, who, without any hesitation, left the tranquility of Tahiti to start Semacua.  He worked with Philippe Ruez, a Tahitian technician, who, afterwards, worked on many hatchery projects and is still working on one in Madagascar.  The second team to work on the Semacua hatchery was Serge Brouillet and Jerome Bonfils.  After their work, another French team with Philippe Danigo and Elizabeth Lebègue was hired directly by Semacua.  The challenges were high, the production was often up and down, but it was a key point in the development of shrimp farming in Ecuador in the 1980s.

 

Peter Shayne became famous because of a story in Time magazine titled Shrimp Better Than Marijuana about the big profits in Ecuadorian shrimp farming.  Some years later drug traffickers were caught using blocks of frozen shrimp to ship cocaine to the USA.  In the ten years that followed, our design was copied by the more than 100 hatcheries that popped up along Hatchery Row in Santa Elena Province.  One of the first innovations was an automatic device to collect high-quality nauplii by using a bottom-to-top water circulation system in the hatching tanks.  Our larvae culture system was based on the Galveston Method developed by Corny Mock in Texas, but we added some new treatments to stop pathogens, like Trifluralin against fungi, delivered by a drop-by-drop system for 24 hours.  And, to increase production, we developed tanks with U-shaped bottoms so that a few air-bubblers were able to keep all the organic matter in suspension, which prevented the dead zones typical of flat-bottom tanks.

 

Much of the equipment developed by Semacua is still used by hatcheries today: circular fiberglass tanks for maturation, nauplii concentrators and helmet-style concentrators for larvae.  Diseases were a common problem, but regular dry-outs after two to three production cycles proved to be one of the most effective ways of dealing with them.  Most of the mortality outbreaks were linked to various strains of Vibrio, so we did a lot of work on maintaining the diversity of bacteria in the larval tanks.  I think our veterinarian, Maurice Weppe, was the first to add sugar to the water to control the Vibrio flora.

 

Semacua Hatchery in Ecuador 1970s

Semacua was the first hatchery to discover a shrimp virus that affected postlarvae.  It was a baculovirus, easily viewed through a microscope because it aggregated in pyramidal clusters.  The virus only affected already weak larvae and postlarvae.  One of the hatchery constraints at the time was the quantity and quality of cellular algae to feed the zoea and mysis stages.

 

Jacques Calvas, Gilles Breuil, Olivier Avalle and I were working at Semacua during the big El Niño of 1983.  It rained continuously for several months.  When our salinities dropped below 27 parts per thousand, the female shrimp stopped maturing and producing eggs.  Roads and bridges were washed away.  We transported postlarvae across the flooded rivers in plastic buckets hanging from emergency cables.  We could not get from Salinas to Guayaquil and had to depend on the Ecuadorian Air Force for transportation.

 

Semacua was the first training ground for people like Patrick Wood and Daniel Lee and others who later became important players in shrimp farming.

 

 

Semacua, Jean Francois Lebitoux Searching for Mature Females

France Aquaculture built a second large hatchery in Ecuador named “INBIOSA” that had all the latest refinements deriving from our Semacua experience.  Philippe Danigo, Elizabeth Lebegue and Frédéric Vidal, all members of the France Aquaculture team, were in charge and achieved high level of production with support from the COP team.  Carlos Lasso was the entrepreneur on this project, and it was the first attempt to launch a P. stylirostris production using techniques developed in New Caledonia, but he had problems with the local strain of the IHHN virus and feed quality.  Eventually, the site was used for private housing.

 

Independent French biologists, like Anne Guillaumin and Hervé Lucien-Brun, worked for some of Ecuador’s private sector shrimp farming companies, like Baltek Corporation, a publicly traded USA corporation.

 

At this time, a big argument persisted about which was better: hatchery produced or wild postlarvae.  We discovered that buyers of wild postlarvae were systematically underestimating the number of PLs they were buying, while they gave true counts for hatchery produced PLs.  Consequently, sometimes survival rates for the wild postlarvae were above 100%.  That’s why wild PLs usually won the argument!

 

Colombia: The Sanford Group asked France Aquaculture to design and build a 165-hectare shrimp farm near Cartagena on the Caribbean coast.  Jack Pichon was the engineer for this farm, which was located in the middle of a mangrove forest.  When the farm was about to start its operations, the Sanford Group asked France Aquaculture to supply training for the Colombian team.  I sent Régis Bador, whom I had hired at COP as my assistant soon after he completed his military obligation.  Régis trained a local team, which ran the farm after the consulting period ended.

 

The Sanford Group also asked for the design and start-up training for a modern hatchery in a remote place north of Cartagena.  Philippe Danigo was in charge of that operation for two years.  He got excellent productions with P. vannamei in a region where it was not present in the wild.  In 21 months of uninterrupted production, the hatchery, Camarones del Caribe, “Camcar”, with six dry-outs a year, did not get any diseases.  Half its production was coming from captive broodstock, and PLs were selling for $8 to $9 a 1,000.  It strictly followed France Aquaculture’s protocols, which closely resembled the “new” biosecurity measures that are talked about today.

 

At the time, there was a lot of discussion about specific pathogen free (SPF) and specific pathogen resistant (SPR) postlarvae.  Our team was more in favor of the SPR strategy, but SPF, as recent history has demonstrated, appears to have won this argument.  There is no doubt, however, that the use of the molecular tools applied to selective breeding programs will help to develop resistant strains.  Today, shrimp farms in Honduras and Ecuador are making great progress with resistant strains of P. vannamei, and in New Caledonia, farms are working with the resistant strain of P. stylirostris (SPR-43), that we developed in Tahiti.

 

A few years later, Régis Bador left IFREMER and was hired to manage the Colombian farm and, eventually, the hatchery.  Later, the farm was sold to the Oceanos Group and the hatchery became the main facility of CENIACUA, a private R&D center created by Acuanal, the Colombian Aquaculture Association, where an important genetic research program on P. vannamei is still running with the scientific support from Akvaforks, a Norwegian organization specialized in genetic programs for aquaculture.

 

Panama: In Panama in the 1980s, The Centre Océanologique du Pacifique worked on two projects with France Aquaculture.  In the first one, a World Bank project, we were originally awarded the contract, and we fought hard to keep it, but, eventually, lost it to Aquatic Farms, headed by Ed Scura, who today runs Shrimp Improvement Systems, a shrimp broodstock company.  For many years, Aquatic Farms and France Aquaculture competed with each other on shrimp farming contracts from the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and other organizations.  The competition was cordial, and we always shared a drink with them after our respective presentations.

 

The second project in Panama was with a local government.  The person in charge visited us in Tahiti and a contract was signed, but at the last moment, President Noriega ran into serious political problems and the project was abandoned.

 

Cuba: In 1989, FAO signed a contracted with France Aquaculture to implement a maturation and nauplii production system at an already existing hatchery built by the Japanese in Santa Cruz del Sur, on the south central coast of Cuba.  The contract was for just one month.  Georges Remoissenet was the biologist in charge.  He artificially inseminated some P. vannamei that were available at the facility and produced nauplii on the last day of his mission.  For “security reasons”, he was not allowed to take any pictures.

 

 Venezuela: France Aquaculture had a long relationship with an entrepreneur named “Mata” who wanted to develop a large project.  France Aquaculture did a lot of research on the project, and a good site was found, but at the last moment the site was no longer available, so the project was never developed.

 

 

 

Jukungl Island Indonesia

Indonesia: At the end of the 1970s, Sofjan Alisjhabana, an entrepreneur, acquired the rights to three islands in the Bay of Jakarta, and was interested in developing a shrimp hatchery on one of them.  At a conference, he had heard a presentation by two scientists from our group, Jacques Calvas and Chantal Cahu, about our work with shrimp, and he decided to visit us in Tahiti.  I pointed out that the logistics of running a hatchery on a remote island could be a problem.  That didn’t seem to bother him.  I explained all the difficulties of starting and running a shrimp farm and never expected to see him again, but I was wrong.  He asked me to join him on a visit to the Semacua hatchery in Ecuador, and soon after that he signed a contract with France Aquaculture for the design, construction and operation of a P. monodon hatchery in the Seribu Archipelago, located 80 kilometers north of Jakarta in the Java sea.  He came to Paris and we had a nice dinner in Versailles at the home of Jacques Perrot the Director of France Aquaculture.

 

Pierre Garen and Philippe Ruez were the biologists on this project and the construction was managed mainly by André Dubray.  It was a beautiful hatchery on a wonderful site on a small 24-acre island in the middle of nowhere with no communications.  The hatchery incorporated many biosecurity concepts that are still used today, like separate modules for larvae tanks, foot baths and plumbing designed to be dismantled for a complete dry out.  Because the island was pure sand, the broodstock ponds were lined with PVC and surrounded with an electrical fence protecting shrimp from biawaks, monitor lizards that swim.  The maturation room and the other equipment were very similar to the design of the Semacua hatchery in Ecuador, but adapted for P. monodon.  Three of Sofjan’s biologists were trained at COP in Tahiti.  In the following years (1983 to 1998), the hatchery was expanded and the production reached more than 20 million postlarvae a month.  They were used to supply Sofjan’s farm on the Java coast and other shrimp farms.  The whitespot virus and a nearby, polluting paper mill forced the farm, Fega Marikultura, to shift from shrimp to fish in the late 1990s.

 

Sofjan Alisjhabana was a tough negotiator, but very honest about paying the royalties on his contract, even after the end of our technical assistance.  This was not the case in other projects where the companies came up with all kinds of excuses for not paying their royalties.

 

Malaysia: In the 1980s, we worked on a project that was arranged between the French and Malaysian governments.  Leaders of the Malaysian Aquaculture Department were invited to visit our center in Tahiti, and a contract was signed between their Directorate of Fisheries and France Aquaculture.  I toured Malaysia to find a site, and we chose one on the northwest coast.

 

This contract was for a pilot hatchery for freshwater prawns and marine shrimp.  It was used as a training facility for Malaysian biologists and technicians.  Jean-François Virmaux was the engineer and Philippe-Jacques Hatt and Pierre Roffino were the biologists on this project for two years.  In addition to our pilot hatchery, the Japanese government, through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, built a huge cement hatchery at the site based on the Fujinaga green-water, big-tank design.

 

Philippe-Jacques Hatt did some consulting jobs in Malaysia for the Directorate of Fisheries.  At one, a Macrobrachium hatchery close to Malacca, he showed that the total mortality of the larvae was related to the high concentration of petroleum in the sea water along the Malacca sea road.  He was well known in the area and at the Malaysian Directorate of Fisheries, where everybody recognized his French butterfly tie and the computer he always had with him at a time when computers were not very common.

 

After the French completed the hatchery, the director of Malaysian fisheries visited IFREMER’s headquarters in Paris and said that the operation was considered by the Malaysian government to be very successful and gave his thanks to the French team.  He emphasized that the French hatchery was “highly reliable”, when compared to the other prawn hatcheries in the country.

 

The Philippines: In 1983, through a Frenchman in The Philippines, Jacques Branellec, an entrepreneur that developed pearl farming in the Philippines, we were involved with the Cojuanco family and the San Miguel Company in the development of shrimp farming.  With Jean-François Virmaux, we surveyed many sites with helicopters.  We trained biologists at our center, but due to political events, the decision to build a hatchery and a farm was not taken.  One ex-member of COP, Serge Brouillet, was hired directly by San Miguel to run a growout farm in Mindanao, a huge island at the southern end of the Philippine archipelago.

 

Some years later we built a maturation facility for captive broodstock for San Miguel Corporation.

 

India: In 1987 and 1988, Jacques Perrot, General Manager of France Aquaculture wanted to develop consulting contracts in India.  Many contacts were discussed with the TATA Group, but were not finalized.  We did sign a hatchery contract with MPEDA (the Marine Product Export and Development Authority) a government agency in charge of exporting seafood products.  Pierre Garen and Gilles Boisson were the biologists on this project.  The designer was Jean-François Virmaux.  The hatchery was built in a small village (6,000 people) in the state of Orissa and was initially designed to produce 25 million postlarvae a year from captive P. monodon broodstock.  Nursery ponds were lined, but the broodstock ponds were earthen and located at the mouth of a river.  We stocked the broodstock ponds with big, 300-gram P. monodon captured by local fishermen.  Within a few years, the hatchery managed to produce over 100 million postlarvae a year.  MPEDA used the facility as a training center, and it was used to spread our technology all over India.

 

The key man in the development of shrimp hatcheries in India was MPEDA’s Dr. M. Saktivel, a true entrepreneur.  Without him, shrimp farming in India would not have grown as fast as it did, and it would not have been as environmentally friendly.

 

With FAO funds, France Aquaculture built a large hatchery in Kerala, but we were never able to operate it because of a lack of funds.  At the same time, MPEDA signed a contact with Aquatic Farms, a consulting company headed by Ed Scura, a competitor and friend.

 

Sri Lanka: From 1987 to 1991, Michel Girin, a key player at France Aquaculture’s headquarters in Paris, worked with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on the development of a training center for shrimp farming on the west coast of Sri Lanka.  It included a P. monodon hatchery, some growout ponds and facilities for training technicians.  Jean-François Virmaux was the engineer on this project, which took over two years to set up and launch.  Olivier Millous was in charge of construction, start up and operations.  Later, he was joined by biologists Philippe Ruez and Jean-Marc Delaune.  That project was handed over to the Ministry of Fisheries of in 1991.  At the end of the France Aquaculture contract, the three biologists decided to start their own farm in Sri Lanka.  After one very successful year, the farm was hit by the whitespot virus and shut down.

 

 

Singapore: We had a long cooperation mainly on shrimp nutrition with the Primary Production Department of Shangi Point with Leslie Chong and Renée Chou.  In 1989, we designed and built a maturation facility for captive P. merguiensis broodstock for the Flowell Group, which wanted to produce postlarvae for intensive raceways.  We trained their team in Tahiti, but unfortunately, the farm never reached its production goals.

 

 

Nosybe Madagascar Hatchery

 

Madagascar: In Madagascar, at the end of the 1980s, Mr. Aziz Ismael, a shrimp fisherman with a large fleet, captured thousands of tons of P. indicus in the Nosy Be area every year.  He fished in a sustainable manner, taking only the quantity advised by the researchers at the French Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique d’Outre-Mer.  He wanted to develop a shrimp farm, so COP sent Alain Febvre to help him get started.  Through FAO, Alain found funding for a pilot project that include a small hatchery, a broodstock (P. monodon) facility and some growout ponds.  Olivier Avalle became the biologist on the project, with backup from Michel Autrand at France Aquaculture.  The pilot project was very successful, and Ismael decided to develop a farm capable of producing 2,500 to 3,000 metric tons of shrimp a year.  He modeled the project on the shrimp farms in New Caledonia, which had ten-hectare ponds stocked at low densities.  Padge Beasley, an American, supervised pond construction and signed a contract with France Aquaculture for a P. monodon hatchery to be built in Nosy Be and operated by the technicians that had been trained during the pilot phase by Philippe Ruez, who currently is in charge of a different big P. monodon hatchery in Madagascar.

 

Aziz Ismael was convinced of the necessity to replace wild broodstock with captive broodstock and built a broodstock facility, managed by Loic Legroumellec, who was trained by COP, to produce captive breeders.  From 1995 to 1997, Régis Bador was in charge of production at the farm associated with this hatchery.  The farm produced 2,500 metric tons a year and supported a village of 1,000 people.  Madagascar was able to operate without viral problems for a couple of decades; it was not until 2012 that the whitespot virus hit the country.

 

 

 

Nosybe Madagascar Nursery Tanks

Michel Autrand, who left France Aquaculture to become an independent shrimp farming consultant, played a key role in the development of Madagascar’s shrimp farming industry.  In the 1990s, another biologist at France Aquaculture, Bertrand Couteaux, became the coordinator of the fisheries development in Madagascar.  Recently, the World Wildlife Fund mentioned Madagascar as a country with a sustainable shrimp farming industry that has had a positive social impact on the country.

 

Senegal: France Aquaculture developed a pilot shrimp farm in Zinquichor, Senegal, where P. monodon, P. vannamei and P. stylirostris were tested.  The project was under the control of the Ministry of Fisheries and Bertrand Couteaux, trained at the COP, was the biologist in charge.

 

Mozambique: In 1992, for the Armas French group in La Reunion, a French island located in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, Sanofi Aquaculture (below) was involved in the design of a pilot project and then a production facility in Mozambique.  The Goulamaly family was the entrepreneur.

 

 

Marine Shrimp Farming 1990 to 1995

Sanofi Aquaculture and Direct Involvement from IFREMER

 

From 1990 to 1995, IFREMER/France Aquaculture began to shift its emphasis from private sector development to basic research.

 

In 1989, IFREMER asked me to join a meeting with representatives of Sanofi, which was interested in developing an agribusiness division as a complement to its a large animal health division.  Xavier Moreno, who was in charge of this division, had shown some interest in aquaculture, and IFREMER wanted me to tell them about our shrimp program. They hired Laurent Combaz, a young biologist engineer, and sent him to Southeast Asia for a year to look at the potential of aquaculture health products. He submitted a comprehensive report on our program to Sanofii, and Sanofi decided to invest in France Aquaculture. The name of the new venture became Sanofi Aquaculture.   I became the General Manager of this new entity, which focused on the development of aquaculture health products and the acquisition or development of new hatcheries.  Sanofi also bought Frippak, a small company that produced micro-particulate feed for shrimp.

 

Sanofi Aquaculture became a shareholder of the Sodacal farm in New Caledonia where in 1992 the team headed by Edouard Klotz produced 430 tons of 29-gram P. stylirostris from 130 hectares of semi intensive ponds with no aeration.

 

In 1991, we developed a large joint venture in Mexico, Aquanova, created with a Mexican company and the Mexican subsidiary of Sanofi.  A large hatchery was built in Teacapàn and farms were built in Chametla and Boga Cegada.  Maurice Weppe and Laurent Ottogali ran these operations, with backup from COP.  We introduced the IHHNV-resistant strain of P. stylirostris (SPR 43), which was in competition with another strain called “Super Shrimp” from a USA group.  Several viruses were present in Mexico, and our SPR strain was outlawed, even though P. stylirostris was native to Mexico.

 

In Thailand, we developed a venture with Betagro, a Thai company.  We bought and redesigned an existing farm on the east coast of Thailand near Hat Yai and set up a new hatchery near Nakhon Si Thammarat.  At more than 20 metric tons per hectare, the first crop at the farm was very successful, but during the second crop, we experienced sudden, huge mortalities.  It was the beginning of the yellowhead virus, soon to be followed by other viruses like whitespot.  At our hatchery, we wanted to use captive broodstock, but since construction had been delayed, we started with wild-caught animals, which were not screened for diseases and were infected by pathogens.  Even with our experienced team—Gilles Boisson, Michel Bohe, Yves Veran and Stéphane Ralite—production was erratic.

 

In 1992 in Colombia, we were involved in the design and setup of a large feed mill for Camcar, which used our premixes that were produced in France.

 

In 1992 in Indonesia, we worked with the Sekar Group to build a large farm in Sunbawa.

 

In 1992 in Saudi Arabia we were involved with the Al Rasheed group, helping it find a site on the Red Sea for a big shrimp farm.

 

In 1993 in Brazil, we worked with the Guttierez Group and IFREMER, investigating the potential of shrimp farming in cages.  Liet Chim was the biologist in charge of the project.

 

SEPIA, a French consulting company not associated with us, headed by Gilles Brunel, was active in shrimp farming in Indonesia and Ecuador.

 

In 1994, Sanofi, anticipating major international disruptions from the Gulf Wars, decided to withdraw from aquaculture and shrimp farming and return to its core business of pharmaceutical drugs.  It sold all its shrimp farming businesses.  This brought to an end the French Government’s involvement in shrimp farming and members of our team returned to work for IFREMER, COFREPECHE (fisheries and aquaculture sector and the integrated coastal zone management) or stayed with Sanofi in other positions.  Others became consultants and continued with the development of shrimp farming, especially in Madagascar.  In Ecuador, a small group headed by Eric Mialhe and several South American scientists from ESPOL (The Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral, a public university located in Guayaquil, Ecuador) that were trained by IFREMER began to develop the use of molecular tools for disease diagnostics through a cooperation between French and Ecuadorian governments.

 

During this period, COP research programs were reoriented to pearl farming, which is widely practiced in French Polynesia.  Some members or our team—Denis Saulnier, Emmanuel Goyard, Franck Berthe and Cyril Goarant—were transferred to New Caledonia to support the shrimp farming industry, where they focused on pathology, genetics and demonstrating the potential of our inbred line of P. stylirostris.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Through the research conducted at the Centre Océanologique du Pacifique in Tahiti and the Station de Saint Vincent in New Caledonia, we developed shrimp hatchery and shrimp farming technologies that were transferred to tropical countries all over the world.  It was a team effort with many of the same people working together over long periods of time.  We went through periods of success, but also faced failures, mainly due to new pathogens and the lack of sufficient knowledge to deal with them.

 

The declining interest of the French Government, weakened by national and bureaucratic views of the French Ministry of Research and the lack of will of French seafood companies to invest in foreign countries, ended our shrimp farming program.  Fortunately, by the late 1990s, most of our technology was in the hands of private consultants who continued to spread it around the world.

 

For those of us that participated in the spread of French shrimp farming technology around the world, we have a lot of good memories, and we are all proud to have played an important role in the development of a whole new way of producing food.  It was a huge and exciting part of our lives, and we have some fantastic stories to tell our grandchildren.

 

I probably have forgotten to mention a few of the people who made contributions to the development of French shrimp farming around the world, so I would like to thank them now.  It was a team effort and would not have worked without all of you!

 

Information: Alain Michel (alainhenri@aol.com), 8  rue de Lille, 75007 Paris, France (phone 33-1-30-54-46-67).

 

Information: Régis Bador, InnovAquaculture, BP 15349, 98804 Noumea, New Caledonia (phone +687-73-48-97, mobile +687-73-48-97, Skype regisbador, email contact@innovaquaculture.com, webpage http://www.innovaquaculture.com).

 

Sources:

1. Alain Michel (primary author, above)

2. Régis Bador (coordinator, above)

 

3*. Other contributors:

Michel Autrand (michel.autrand@wanadoo.fr)

Olivier Avalle (olivier.avalle@iotrepang.com)

Gilles Boisson (gilles.boisson@sanofi.com)

Pierre Garen (pierre.garen@ifremer.fr)

Philippe-Jacques Hatt (philippe.jacques.hatt@ifremer.fr)

Olivier Millous (paspls@mail.pf)

Georges Remoissenet (georges.remoissenet@drm.gov.pf)

Jean-François Virmaux (pacaquaservices@mail.pf)

Jean de Chazeaux (jean.de-chazeaux@wanadoo.fr)

 

4. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, August 2013.

 

 
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