June 8, 2011


India makes major breakthrough in shrimp research



Marine product exports from India are expected to receive a large boost with a research breakthrough ensuring the supply of high-quality all-male scampi (giant fresh water prawn) seeds.


In April this year, the Scampi Broodstock Development Project of the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture (RGCA at Konathanapadu, in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, successfully developed the first proven "neofemale" in the country thereby achieving production of all male progeny of the giant fresh water prawn (Scampi- Macrobrachium rosenbergii) for the first time in the subcontinent.


The technology developed at RGCA involves the sex reversal of healthy Scampi males into functional females (called neofemales) through microsurgical interventions and crossing these females with normal males to produce all male progeny.


This technology does not involve any kind of genetic manipulations or hormonal treatments, which has the potential of increasing the unit area production by around 40%.


This development would help solve the problem of differential growth (among males and females), which causes low survivals and poor yields - one of the major challenges faced by Scampi farmers in the country.


At present, the Scampi farmers are forced to painstakingly segregate males and females at the farm and grow only males that grow to larger sizes in quicker time when compared to the females. The technology now developed by RGCA could easily resolve this major challenge of differential growth faced by the Scampi farmers and provide the much-needed boost for Scampi farming in the country.


RGCA has already developed the technology for all male Scampi production and the project is now just a step away from large-scale production of neofemales. Once this is achieved, the project would be able to ensure the supply of high quality all male Scampi seeds to the industry.


This could raise the unit area production of Scampi by around 40% while also boosting overall Scampi aquaculture production in the country.


The giant fresh water prawn is an important export commodity with great demand in the international aquaproduct market. This species also has great potential for aquaculture in India and can be farmed in inland areas also with good fresh water resources.


Scampi production in the country had declined to around 4,000 tonnes in 2010-11 from around 43,000 tonnes in 2005, due mainly to several technical problems that besieged the industry.


Marine products account for around 1.1% of the total export earnings for India. India exported around 7.53 lakh tonnes of marine products, worth around INR119.8 billion (US$2.68 billion), during 2010-11.


As a part of this project, RGCA has also completed a diallel crossing experiment for the development of an improved strain of Scampi that performs well. The development of all male seeds would be taken up from this strain to maximise the benefits to the industry. It is envisaged that the project would be able to produce and supply all male fresh water prawn seeds on commercial basis within the next two years. The technology for all male Scampi seed production would also be passed on to the Scampi hatcheries/entrepreneurs across the country.


Aquaculture has been a major contributor to marine product exports from the country, in view of the dwindling natural fishery of commercially important varieties like shrimps. Farmed shrimp and Scampi (fresh water prawn) accounted for 41% of exports in terms of quantity and 50% in terms of value of the total shrimp and Scampi exports from the country.


However, the contribution of aquaculture to the total marine product exports from the country has been more or less stagnant over the last decade. Aquaculture production contributed 15.3% in terms of quantity and 25.2% in terms of value of the total marine product exports from the country.


Against this, the share of aquaculture to total exports in countries like China is significantly higher than the share of wild catches.


The Marine Products Export Development Authority has embarked on a programme to strengthen the aquaculture production base in the country, an essential prerequisite to sustain and augment the aquaculture production as well as seafood exports from the country.

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