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Aloha from the Oceanic Institute

OI research supports growing shrimp industry

by Shaun Moss, Ph.D., Shrimp Department

U.S. consumers represent the largest shrimp market in the world, and consumer demand continues to grow significantly each year. From 1998 to 2002, shrimp consumption in the United State grew 25 percent, and per capita consumption reached a record 3.7 pounds in 2002. In fact, U.S. consumers now eat more shrimp than canned tuna!

Despite this incredible demand, domestic production of shrimp is low, resulting in a $3 billion federal trade deficit in shrimp products. Increasing the domestic supply of wild-caught shrimp is unlikely due to high costs and over fishing, so consumers are looking to aquaculture to satisfy their insatiable hunger for pink crustaceans.

 

Scientists at OI, an affiliate of HPU, are conducting shrimp aquaculture research and hope to contribute to the establishment of an environmentally sustainable and economically viable domestic shrimp farming industry. For example, with funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce, OI and its research partners are developing a recirculating production system which prevents the introduction of virulent pathogens into the shrimp culture environment while simultaneously protecting the outside environment from the negative impacts associated with effluent discharge. Importantly, this new production system will allow farmers to produce shrimp in such places as Colorado or Wisconsin, far away from sensitive coastal areas. As part of this integrated research program, OI scientists are studying shrimp genetics, nutrition, microbial ecology, and systems engineering. HPU students who want to participate in this research program through summer internships should e-mail OI director Gary Karr at gkarr@oceanicinstitute.org.

In another project funded by the U.S.D.A., OI scientists are working with researchers from the University of Connecticut to develop transgenic shrimp which produce cecropin, an antimicrobial peptide that was first discovered in the silk moth. Due to its unique structural features, cecropin is effective in killing a variety of viruses, bacteria, and fungi, all of which are pathogenic to shrimp. This research is especially important because shrimp farmers have suffered significant economic losses in recent years due to disease. Because there are no commercially available chemicals, antibiotics, or vaccines to effectively treat the diseases associated with these pathogens, there is an urgent need to develop effective technologies to overcome them, including the development of transgenic shrimp.

For more information on these and other OI research projects, visit www.oceanicinstitute.org.

 

 

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