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Granvil Treece got started in aquaculture in 1978, serving as a marine fish wet lab manager at the University of Texas’ Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas, USA. In the early 1980s, he managed a commercial shrimp hatchery in St. Croix. Then, for thirty years, from 1983 to 2013, he was a mariculture specialist for Texas A&M University, retiring in 2013, but continuing with consulting through Treece & Associates.
Since 1978, Treece has done aquaculture consulting in more than 30 countries and has written several training manuals on marine shrimp hatchery techniques. He has contributed chapters to books on aquaculture and written numerous articles for various aquaculture publications. From 1983 to 2012, he conducted marine shrimp and marine finfish training courses. Treece has served on the Texas Aquaculture Association (TAA) Board of Directors since 1991 and helps maintain the TAA web site at http://www.texasaquaculture.org.
Shrimp News: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Granvil Treece: I was born north of Houston, Texas, in 1947. My dad worked for Exxon Oil, so we moved around a lot. We spent a couple of years in Bay City, Texas, but I did most of my growing up in Beaumont, in southeast, Texas, near the border with Louisiana. I started high school in Dayton, Texas, about 64 miles west of Beaumont. After my parents’ divorce, my mom moved to Long Beach, California, and I stayed with my dad for a couple of years. Then my mom offered me a car if I moved to California. Going into my senior year of high school, that was an offer that I could not refuse, so I moved in with my mom and finished high school in Long Beach, California.
As the center on my high school football team, I had lined up a football scholarship at the University of Southern California; however, during my last high school football game, I hurt my left knee, had both sides of it operated on, and that ended my football career. After high school, I returned to Texas, lived with an aunt and uncle, and went to Sam Houston State University, in Huntsville, Texas, finishing with a Bachelor’s degree in 1970. While working on the degree, I worked for my uncle who was a commercial pilot and professional photographer, and thought seriously about pursuing flying and photography as a career, but had some problems with airsickness and decided to go to graduate school instead. I was married at that time, and my wife thought graduate school was my best option. Our one and only child arrived just as I was finishing the course work for the Master of Science degree from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, in 1975.
Shrimp News: What was your first job?
Granvil Treece: From 1975-1978, I was a Research Scientist at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas.
My major professor at TAMU was Harold W. Harry, who taught me a lot about mollusks and marine taxonomy, which was the topic of my Master’s Thesis. On my first job after graduation at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI), we worked on a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) project, but a lot of it was offshore, and we did some water chemistry. BLM was doing baseline studies to determine what was in and under our offshore waters, so that it could start leasing sites for oil drilling. We looked at the water column; we looked at the animals in the water and did some trawls. We identified and organized everything that we found. It was called “The South Texas Outer Continental Shelf Study”. My job was to look at the benthos, the bottom stuff, the worms. I actually described two new species that were halfway between the annelid worms and the mollusks, called “Aplacophorus mollusks”. They look more like worms than mollusks, but did have mollusk-like shells or plates on their bodies. After three years, I decided that I didn’t want to pick worms anymore. It got a little old, and when the opportunity came up in 1978, I moved over to the University of Texas’ Mariculture Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Connie Arnold (now retired). Connie was a mentor, and he really got me excited about aquaculture. Under his direction, we spawned red snapper for the first time in captivity and published the results of that work in Aquaculture in 1980.
In 1976, UTMSI had a director that was heavily involved in mariculture named Dr. Oswald Roels. To some extent he was a visionary and leased the National Marine Fisheries Laboratory in Port Aransas with option to buy it for UTMSI after 5 years. Dr. Arnold was director of the Fisheries Lab at NMFS and stayed on as director of the Fisheries and Mariculture Lab after NMFS pulled out and moved their personnel to Galveston. The Fisheries and Mariculture Lab is still operated today by UTMSI. On the island of St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dr. Roels had a big ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) project, funded in part by $7 million in National Sea Grant College Program grants through the years. That project originated at Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory at Colombia University in New York, and Roels brought it with him to UTMSI. It brought huge quantities of 22ºC seawater up from a depth of 2,400 feet. No one knew what to do with the water after it was used for OTEC, so Roels decided to try using it in a mariculture project. The 22ºC seawater was nutrient rich and algae grew well in it, so he used it to feed clams (Tapes japonica) and many other species of shellfish.
In 1979, Dr. John Halver and I went down to St. Croix to do a shrimp feeding study funded by Exxon. We tested fifteen different diets and discovered that live, adult Artemia were Penaeus stylirostris’s favorite feed. They just went crazy over it. We weren’t buying cysts; we were growing Artemia through their complete life cycle and producing live offspring. Then, Roels made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse: to use the water from the OTEC project in a shrimp hatchery.
Shrimp News: What was the name of the project?
Granvil Treece: The private company name was Worldwide Protein, Inc., which was later called Maritek Corporation when Roels moved operations to the Bahamas. So, from 1980 to 1983, I developed a P. vannamei and P. stylirostris hatchery on the north shore of St. Croix that produced two million postlarvae per month.
We produced PLs and sold them for $22 a thousand to local shrimp farmers. We even sold some to Brazil. Ron Staha and José Villalón were on our staff. We got our first batch of broodstock from Peter Shane, one of the first Americans to get involved in Ecuadorian shrimp farming. We would also fly down to Panama to source broodstock. We didn’t know much about maturation at the time, so Roels sent me to Hawaii for ten days to learn something about shrimp maturation from Bob Shleser and Joe Fisher at the Oceanic Institute. They were at the cutting edge of shrimp maturation at the time. I learned a lot in those ten days. When I got back, it was obvious that the broodstock we got from Peter Shane were old and some had already been ablated. That’s when we brought Ron Staha on board; Padge Beasley helped us a little bit down there, too. Ron Staha would line up a broodstock sourcing boat for us in Panama. José Villalón and I would charter a plane and fly down to Panama. I’ve kept in touch with Ron Staha; we both live in Texas, and Padge has retired to his home state of Tennessee. Ron helped us out a lot. We would go into Vacamonte, Panama, where the tides ranged up to nine meters. It’s located on the Pacific Coast of Panama, about an hour and a half by small aircraft from Panama City. We would have to work around the tides and do our broodstock sourcing quickly at night. Our boats had no way to keep water cool below deck, so the broodstock we caught would get really hot at times. Ron was always adamant about not letting them get above 30ºC, saying that if you do, you’ll have black spermatophore problems. At this time—1980 to 1982—we were sourcing about 80% vannamei and about 20% stylirostris. We would take as many boxes of them as we could get on the plane back to St. Croix, where we had four maturation tanks, and we would try to stock them at a 1:1 ratio of males to females.
The wild animals were really productive, just fantastic. We didn’t have to worry about disease because we were using the deep ocean OTEC water. The only problem was that we had to heat it from 22ºC to 28ºC. With vannamei, we found that it was really important to get the temperature up to 28ºC, or they would not spawn. They will survive at 20ºC, and you can ship them at 18ºC.
Shrimp News: How long did that job last?
Granvil Treece: Three years from around 1980 to 1983. They wanted to put in an intensive shrimp farming system there with rectangular, lined ponds, but the southwest shore of St. Croix and the site turned out to be a leatherback turtle nesting ground. Because of the turtles, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service wouldn’t allow any development on the proposed shrimp farm site. So the farming project was moved to Long Island in the Bahamas, at an old Diamond Crystal Salt facility. There was nothing on Long Island to support family life and my son was turning eight, so we decided to move back to the United States mainland.
I went back to Texas A&M and completed all the hours for a PhD, while working as an assistant marine agent in training for the Sea Grant College Program/Marine Advisory Service at TAMU. When I finished the course work for my PhD, I had the opportunity to move to Port Aransas and finish my dissertation and research, but I didn’t want to do that. I saw that Sea Grant/Marine Advisory Service was growing and that it needed a mariculture specialist, so it created a new position for me. I took that job as an agent in training in November 1983 and the new mariculture position was created in 1985, so I kept it for thirty years, until I retired in June 2013. I loved that job, learned a lot and met a lot of great people along the way. My official title was Mariculture Specialist, Texas A&M University, Sea Grant College Program. I was also an Adjunct Associate Professor at Texas A&M and had an affiliation with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from 1999-2013.
Additionally, I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Robert R. Stickney, first in 1983 as my first mariculture course instructor at TAMU, and later when he came back to TAMU as the Sea Grant Director in 1996 until he retired in 2012. I was fortunate to be able to work with others, like Dr. Michael Masser, Dr. Delbert Gatlin, Dr. Bill Neill, Dr. Tzachi Samocha, Josh Wilkenfeld, Linda Smith Lemmon, Nick Staresinic, Harvey Persyn and Bill More while at TAMU and so many others too numerous to mention outside the University. At the encouragement of Dr. Lee Fuiman and Dr. Joan Holt at University of Texas Fisheries and Mariculture Lab, we expanded the shrimp farming short courses into marine finfish culture courses so we could take advantage of their fine staff and facilities.
Shrimp News: When did you go to Indonesia? And how did that fit in with what you were doing at Sea Grant?
Granvil Treece: During the summers of 1986 and 1987. USAID and the Yayasan Dian Desa Shrimp Hatchery in Jepara, Java, sponsored my visits. I worked for Joe Fox. He was there on a semi-permanent basis, working with USAID. He invited me in as a consultant to set-up a Penaeus monodon hatchery. We designed and built a training facility and a commercial hatchery in Jepara, on the north shore of the island of Java. The Indonesians are really sharp, almost to the point where they try too hard to please. Joe and I would go to Semarang for R&R on the weekends. One time when we returned from Semarang, after we had shown our students how to ablate the female broodstock, they had ablated all the broodstock including the males. So we had to get all new male broodstock.
In 1987, when I went back for the second summer, I was treated like a rock star. Shrimp farming had spread up and down the coast. There were six or seven hatcheries and the farms were doing well. That really made me feel good.
Shrimp News: What else did you do at your job with Texas Sea Grant?
Granvil Treece: I started out by helping Dr. Paul Sandifer, one of the pioneers of prawn and shrimp farming in the United States, who, at the time, was director of the Waddell Mariculture Center in South Carolina, which was attempting to get shrimp and prawn farming established in the state. Paul later became director of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. He and Bart Baca, from the Florida Institute of Technology [FIT], in Jensen Beach, Florida, conducted a short courses on shrimp farming. Then Bart Baca started offering the courses himself under the FIT banner and his company, Coastal Science and Engineering of Jacksonville, Florida.
From 1983 through 1987, I helped Bart conduct shrimp farming short courses. I would go there for ten days at time and help with the training and teaching. We would also take the students to the Keys and visit what is now the Shrimp Improvement Systems’ hatchery. That helped me convince the folks in Texas that there was plenty of interest in developing shrimp farming in Texas, so in 1986, we offered the first Shrimp Farming Short Course in Texas.
Also after George Chamberlain with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service (TAEX) and the Texas Sea Grant staff had put on a two-day workshop in 1985 in Corpus Christi and published a shrimp farming manual through Texas Sea Grant and TAEX, it showed how much interest there was in shrimp farming. There were over 120 enthusiastic participants of the workshop and we took them by bus to visit the Laguna Madre Shrimp Farm and hatchery in Bayview, where Jack Parker and Fritz Jaenike helped us with the tour.
I also worked extensively with USDA, Trade Adjustment Assistance Program through the years, conducting training programs in the United States, Nicaragua and Honduras and in 2010 to 2012 worked with them on business plans for shrimp farmers and catfish farmers in the United States.
Shrimp News: Who were some of the people that attended your short course that went off to start shrimp farms?
Granvil Treece: Dr. Humberto Villareal went off and did big things in Mexico. Today, he’s director of the Bioheales and Technology Park at the Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
Bob Philips did a lot with shrimp farming in Belize. He built NOVA’s shrimp farm near Ladyville, and Joe Fox and I helped him design and build the NOVA hatchery on Ambergris Key.
Pete Morales went into San Blas, Mexico, and converted a government oyster hatchery into a shrimp hatchery. When all of Mexico seemed to be switching to “Super Shrimp” (Penaeus stylirostris), he stayed with P. vannamei, and eventually all of Mexico came back around to vannamei. Pete’s hatchery was later destroyed by a hurricane.
Harold Bowers also attended one of our earlier short courses, and his son, Reed, is running his farm now in Collegeport, Texas. Harold was a rice farmer and already knew how to move water efficiently, so diversifying into shrimp farming was a good move for him.
Shrimp News: How many shrimp farms are there in Texas now?
Granvil Treece: About ten farms are up and running and seem to be sustainable. Bowers Shrimp Farm, started by Harold Bowers and now run by his son, Reed, is the biggest and most successful shrimp farm in Texas—and even the United States. I think Harold sold his shrimp farm in Belize to the farm manager. Reed built a new processing plant in Texas. Harold has sold several of his catfish farms. The other shrimp farms in Texas are smaller, and many are struggling with high feed costs, regulations and imports. Global Blue Technologies is coming on strong with indoor biofloc growout and a hatchery that is capable of producing 18 million postlarvae a year.
Shrimp News: What do you think about the future of shrimp farming in Texas?
Granvil Treece: I don’t look for any new farms along the coast because regulations are just too strict, but purchasing an existing farm and its permits would probably work. Also recirculating inland and coastal farms have potential in Texas. Global Blue Technologies, for example, has the first zero-water discharge permit that was granted in the state and had a good crop last year with 58% survival. It looks like shrimp farming has stabilized in Texas, but seems to be growing in Florida.
Shrimp News: Since you retired in 2013, are you doing any work in the shrimp farming arena?
Granvil Treece: I’ve got a consulting company called Treece and Associates. I did an assessment of the United States shrimp farming industry for Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, which took about a year, and gave the industry a green, “Best Choice”, rating. I select consulting projects that I like because I don’t really have to work, but enjoy it. I’m attempting to sell a couple of big shrimp farms in south Texas. I have an economic assessment of the shrimp farming industry in Western Alabama for Auburn University coming up soon, which I am looking forward to.
We are living a very comfortable life. My wife of 46 years, Gail, and I are living on our great retirement plans and enjoying our family and two grand daughters. We are taking an Alaskan cruise this summer with friends. Life is good on our cattle ranch outside Lampasas, Texas, which is in the Texas Hill Country with beautiful views of blue bonnets, Indian paint brushes, live oaks, vineyards and lots of wildlife.
Information: Granvil Treece, Treece and Associates, 927 PR 1236, Lampasas, Texas 76550, USA (phone 1-979-255-6645, email email@example.com).
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