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Organic Shrimp Farming


The following discussion on organic shrimp farming broke out on The Shrimp List (below) on April 15 and 16, 2003, under the subjects of (1) Organic Shrimp Certification and (2) Myths and Realities of Organic Prawn Farming.


Pete Bridson ( I know of a few organic shrimp operations in Ecuador and Central America (including a hatchery) which are certified by Naturland, an organic certification company in Germany, but does anyone have any information regarding Asian production of organic shrimp, particularly production of organic postlarvae?


I would like to know more about the certifying bodies and their requirements.  Some certification bodies seem to require that shrimp consume organic foods for two-thirds of their life cycle.  Does this mean that organic hatcheries can use (or are using) non-organic larval feeds because farmed shrimp spend over two-thirds of their life cycle in growout?  I’m interested in comments from shrimp farmers who are growing shrimp organically.


Durwood Dugger ( Peter, Many of us are curious about organic shrimp.  Could you tell us more about premium prices for organic shrimp?


Olivier Mueller ( Dear Pete, I’m an aquaculture consultant and responsible for Swiss Government projects on organic shrimp farming in Peru and Vietnam.  We use Naturland to certify our operations.


In Vietnam, we use conventional larvae because there are no organic hatcheries.  We will launch a new project this year to master the breeding of Penaeus monodon and to certify organic seed.


In Ecuador, the hatchery you mentioned is also certified by Naturland.  It produces organic P. vannamei larvae.  It maintains captive broodstock and has control of the shrimp’s diet at every life stage, so it’s easier to fulfill the requirements of organic production with vannamei.


On June 15–17, 2003, a conference will be held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, entitled “Organic Aquaculture and Sea Farming”.  Naturland, scientists, farmers and I will be there.  For more information on the conference, contact:


To answer Durwood’s question about premium prices for organically raised shrimp: We market Vietnam’s organic product in Europe and Switzerland at a 20% premium over traditional shrimp products (75% of which goes to the farmers and 25% to a fund for environmental and social projects).


Tarlochan Singh: On May 22, 2003, Tarlochan Singh, Conference Coordinator, wrote: “This is to inform you that a decision has been made to postpone the Organic Aquaculture and Sea Farming 2003 conference, originally scheduled to be held on June 15-17, 2003, due to prevailing travel and logistical constraints pased by the SARS situation in the region.  New dates for the conference will be announced in due course.”



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Durwood Dugger ( Hi Mueller, Thank you very much for your answer.  Now for the really important question.  Considering the cost of certification and the increased costs related to meeting certification requirements, how much of that 20% premium remains after all the costs related to organic farming are deducted?


Getah ( Dear All, What is the difference between “organic shrimp” and the regular shrimp that we all know?


Pete Bridson ( Dear Olivier and Shrimp List, Thanks for the useful information.  I hope you don't mind me asking a few more questions:


If organic farms can be stocked with nonorganic postlarvae (assuming there are no organic PLs available), won’t that slow the development of organic hatcheries because there will be less incentive to develop them?


The wording in Naturland's requirements seems to imply that organic larvae must be used when they are available.  Does this mean that as organic postlarvae come on the market that organic farmers will not be able to stock nonorganic PLs?


Since organic hatcheries rule out ablation and artificial insemination, there will not be many organic monodon hatcheries in the near future.


I am particularly interested in feeds.  How do you satisfy that requirement?


To answer Getah’s question about the difference between organic shrimp and regular shrimp, there is a whole range of requirements that must be met in order to certify, label and sell your shrimp as organic.  The requirements cover the following topics: farm location, mangroves, water quality, water management, fertilizers, stocking density, aeration, medicines, harvesting—and feeds (with various requirements for organic ingredients and limitations on fishmeal/oil use).


Stephan Bergleiter of Naturland is an expert on this stuff.


Olivier Mueller ( Dear Pete, Naturland plans to certify organic shrimp hatcheries in Vietnam.  Meanwhile we use conventional larvae because there is no alternative.  In Vietnam, we plan to produce organic larvae in 2005.


If organic larvae are locally available, nonorganic larvae will probably not be allowed, but Naturland is open to discussion on this topic.


The fulfillment of organic requirements will be a big challenge for P. monodon hatcheries.  The most important thing is to establish captive breeding programs.


The farms that have been certified so far don’t use any commercial feeds.  They rely on the natural productivity of the mangroves to feed their shrimp.  Here is one of Naturland’s requirements on feeds:


Fishmeal and fish oil must originate from the same area where the farms are located.  The following sources are permitted:


• From fisheries certified as sustainable, taking into account the impact on other species and the ecosystem


• From trimmings of fish processed for human consumption


• From by-catches of fish captured for human consumption.


• Other sources may be used to safeguard quality (maximum 50% of total)


Mr. Chandrasekar ( Dear Listers, Is it possible to produce organic P. vannamei postlarvae?  If so, how do they differ from monodon?  Is there a website for Naturland?


Alexandre Alter Wainberg ( Dear Colleagues, Some information on organic aquaculture can be found at


I think the organic aquaculture people have the same doubts than Durwood Dugger expressed, and I include myself in that group.


The FAO Codex Alimentarius Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Foods says:


"Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system that promotes and enhances ecosystem health, including biological cycles and soil biological activity.  Organic agriculture is based on minimizing the use of external inputs and avoiding the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.  Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues, due to general environmental pollution.  However, methods are used to minimize pollution of air, soil and water.  Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards to maintain the integrity of organic agriculture products.  The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people."


I'm converting my conventional shrimp farm into an organic aquaculture operation.  My farm is completely surrounded by conventional shrimp farms that are continuously intensifying production and in the process jeopardizing the stability of the local lagoon system.  Ten years ago, when I got into shrimp farming, I could pump for nine hours on a tide.  Now I can only pump for four hours because of bad water quality.  And more shrimp ponds are being built around me.


I'm selling 90% of my shrimp production to conventional processing plants.  The other 10%, I sell as noncertified organic shrimp to restaurants and people that know the work I'm doing here.  The response has been very good.  Customers say my shrimp have better texture and taste than conventionally farmed shrimp.  In June 2003, I’m going to present my shrimp to a gourmet association with 70 restaurants in Brazil’s important cities.  I really don't know if I will get premium prices, but cutting out the middleman and selling directly to these restaurants should bring a better price than selling to processors.  When, and if, more farms go organic, we could join together and export an organic product.


Olivier Mueller ( Dear Mr. Chandrasekar, Yes, Ecuador has a hatchery certified by Naturland.


It is easier to certify P. vannamei because it’s maintained in captive broodstock facilities.  The organic certifiers don’t like the idea of taking animals from the wild.


Naturland’s website is at


Esteba Santos ( Dear Olivier and Mr. Chandrasekar, Ecuador currently has three certified hatcheries, Macrobio, Centinela and Costapac.  They all have their own closed cycle maturation and breeding programs.  Two feed mills, three processing plants and about 1,500 hectares of ponds have been certified.


Durwood Dugger ( I am disappointed that no one is commenting on the financial aspects of the organic approach.  If organic farming provides no significant financial benefits to the farmer and may limit some of his options, is it really a good business practice?


Historically, one of the overriding characteristics of the shrimp market has been the absence of premium prices.  Usually the difference in price between the best and the worst shrimp is less than 10%.


Esteban Santos ( Dear Members, I have followed the discussion with great interest.  Allow me to contribute some of our six-year experience with Germany’s Naturland in our quest to develop a truly organic shrimp farming system.


Naturland is the most experienced organization in the world in terms of certification of aquaculture operations, having worked with carp, mussels, salmon and prawns.


Dr. Stefan Bergleiter, an aquaculture specialist at Naturland, can be reached on this list, where he is a frequent contributor, and at


The International Federation of Organic Movements, an umbrella organization for certification bodies, is against certification in countries where "nonindigenous species" have been introduced, like P. vannamei in Brazil.


Other conditions:


•  Low density, low biomass production

•  Low protein organic feed

•  Antibiotic free larvae and juveniles raised from maturation facilities that favor domestication and closed cycle operations

•  Full traceability

•  Low energy usage

•  Daily monitoring of effluents

•  Reforestation practices


The standards are revised every year.


The relationship with the certifier is of great importance as the periodical audits and flow of information have to be first class to avoid conflicts and misinterpretations.  We recommend the forum in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City in June 2003 (contact information above).  For those requiring more information or advisory services, please contact me off list.


Alexandre Alter Wainberg ( Dear colleagues, Here are some comments from Naturland’s International Standards for Organic Aquaculture.


•  Native species are preferred.

•  Cooperation with regional conservation programs is actively supported.

•  Shrimp must not be able to escape.

•  No sales of live shrimp are permitted


Here are some of IFOMA’s basic conditions and general principles: Management techniques must be governed by the physiological and ethological needs of the organisms in question.  The organisms should be allowed to conduct their basic behavioral needs, and all management techniques, especially where production levels and speed of growth are concerned, must be directed at good health and welfare of the organisms.


Special care must be taken when introducing nonnative species.  Exotics are not prohibited.


Source: The Shrimp List. Subjects: (1) Organic Shrimp Certification and (2) Myths and Realities of Organic Prawn Farming. April 15 and 16, 2003.2.  Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, October 4, 2003.


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