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EMS Update and Four Farms Lose ASC Certification


In 2014, shrimp export earnings netted Belize over $45 million in foreign exchange, approximately 15% of its export earnings.  Then, the industry was hit by early mortality syndrome (EMS), caused by a strain of bacteria called Vibrio parahaemolyticus.  The industry began feeling the effect of EMS in March 2015.  Three months into the disease, most farms had been hit by EMS, and production fell to less than half of what it was in 2014.  In 2016, exports were just over $5 million.


The toll on the industry was devastating, but farmers moved quickly to identify the disease and began an aggressive campaign to stop and reverse its effects.  So well orchestrated was the response that Belize’s Statistical Institute reported that shrimp exports for January/February 2017 were $800 thousand higher than those in the same period of 2016.  In the first two months of 2016, exports amounted to $3.4 million, and in the first two months of 2017, they were $4.2 million.


The shrimp farming industry directly employs over 1,400 people, mostly women in rural areas who earn some $3.5 million a year.  In 2017, the industry expects exports to be worth $20 million.


In November 2016, after a tour of some shrimp farms and a meeting with shrimp farmers, Godwin Hulse, Agriculture Minister, expressed optimism for the shrimp farming industry.  He said: “They are pretty much past...early death syndrome....  They have done this by reducing the size of their ponds, lining them and draining them on a daily basis.  It was a pretty large investment, but a significant investment because the farms we visited prior to this were doing about 1,200 pounds per acre [a year], but [now] they are projected to do about 20,000 pounds per acre [a year].  Even though the ponds are smaller, they are intensive, and the shrimp look really good.”


That was almost six months ago.  Now a new problem has popped up.  On May 4, 2017, four Belizean shrimp farms lost their Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification and will have to undergo the certification process again because of “adverse pathological events related to EMS.”  Those suspended are the Bel-Euro Aquaculture Farm, Paradise Shrimp Farm, Tex Mar Farm and Tropical Aquaculture Investment Farm.


Sources: 1. The Guardian.  Belize’s Shrimp Industry Rebounding.  April 7, 2017.  2. LoveFM.  Shrimp Farmers Fail ASC Assessments.  Renee Trujillo.  May 9, 2017.