When a contagious viral disease struck the Indian shrimp industry in the 1990s, taking native species like Asian tiger shrimps (peneaus monodon) off the market, an exotic species from Latin America, the Pacific white shrimp (peneaus vannamei) came to the rescue of the ailing industry.
Now, scientists are working to revive an indigenous species -the Indian white shrimp (peneaus indicus) -that can challenge the foreign species dominating the country's shrimp exports. Scientists from ICAR Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA) in Chennai are promoting the native species among shrimp farmers under the Make in India programme.
CIBA director K K Vijayan said a project proposal had been submitted to the Centre to initiate a selective breeding programme for the native species. The project includes allotment of Rs 25,000 hectare for farming and additional production of Rs 1.5 lakh tonnes of native species. Popularisation of the native species among farmers is important, as it has the potential to be an alternative to the exotic Pacific white shrimp. It will also decrease the dependence on other countries for brood stock besides increasing profitability," he said.
The Pacific white shrimp has dominated the Indian market since the late 2000s, when it was introduced to resurrect the industry struggling to stay afloat after the virus-affected Asian tiger shrimp species vanished. By 2014, 70% of the total seafood export of Rs 30,000 crore was shrimps. In the next two years, the foreign species accounted for nearly 90% of the Rs 24,500-crore shrimp export business.Despite good production, the foreign species may have run its course as it is prone to diseases, both existing and new.
Revival of the native species not only provides a diversification in aquaculture but also prevents the industry from suffering losses due to frequent disease outbreaks affecting the now popular Pacific white shrimps, said principal investigator of the programme Akshaya Panigrahi.
The demonstration of the native species has been done on farms in the coastal states of Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat. "The result of these trials showed immense potential of the native shrimp. The Indian white shrimp production of up to 3 to 6 tonnesha has been achieved in four months," said Panigrahi.
The non-genetically improved cultured Indian white shrimp is found to have a growth and productivity on a par with the Pacific white shrimp. "Since Indian white shrimp is a native species, there is no fear of alien pathogens affecting it. And in five years, a genetically improved variety of the native species will prove to be better than the exotic species in Indian conditions," he said. Apart from farming demonstrations across the country, scientists have also been conducting genetic characterisation of the species. "Genetic characterisation is an important step for selective breeding of a species to genetically modify it," said Panigrahi. A national workshop on Indian white shrimp farming was also conducted earlier this month among stakeholders where memorandums of understanding were signed to promote white shrimp aquaculture.