The fully air-conditioned and sterile quarantine cubicles look like an intensive care unit where VVIPs are being treated. Scientists and technicians closely monitor the Pacific White Leg Shrimp (L. vannamei) imported mainly from the U.S. and Singapore and kept in quarantine tanks at the Aquatic Quarantine Facility (AQF). It is operated by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture at Neelankarai in Chennai.
“The facility is only one of its kind in the world that ensures the Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) status of imported vannamei brooders and prevent the spread of seven types of transboundary diseases,” said Dr. A. Jayathilak, IAS, Chairman, MPEDA.
India opted for the import of the hardy L. vannamei species after the native black tiger shrimp was wiped out due to the outbreak of the ‘white spot’ disease in 1995-96. It necessitated the creation of a quarantine facility on par with the international standards, and the first phase was commissioned in 2009. On Wednesday, the foundation stone was laid for the fourth phase.
“The fourth phase will increase the capacity of the quarantine from 4,12,500 to 5,36,000 brooders per year. We have decided to expand the capacity because of the increasing demand for vannamei,” Dr. Jayathilak told The Hindu.
In India, the focus had shifted from sea-catch to cultured products, and in 2017-18 itself, India had exported marine products to the tune of $6 billion.
“It is our way of turning the table on the West that once imported raw material from India and sold the end-products to us for a higher price. Now, we import brood stocks from the US, raise and breed them in hatcheries and once again export them all over the world,” quipped Dr. Jayathilak.
26,000 samples tested
Imported broodstock that enters the country will first go to the quarantine in the facility where samples will be collected and screened for the OIE-listed pathogens. The lab attached to the quarantine has so far tested more than 26,000 samples.
“The stocks will stay in the quarantine for five days before being released to the owners of the hatcheries who import them. The facility ensured that India remained unaffected by the Early Mortality Syndrome when other South Asian countries were severely affected by it in 2012,” said S. Kandan, Project Director, Rajiv Gandhi Centre of Aquaculture.
The entire facility has been computerised and the owners of the hatcheries, by accessing the website, can know about the availability of space for broodstock before importing them. The facility is located in Neelankarai so that the imported brooders can be quickly moved from the airport to the quarantine.
Dr. Jayathilak said the quarantine facility had achieved 96 per cent survival rate (of the broodstock) given its highly advanced screening and monitoring facilities.