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The Status of Shrimp Farming
in the USA in 1992

Hawaii, South Carolina and Texas


 “A very good year for shrimp farming in the United States,” that’s how one shrimp farmer described USA shrimp farming in 1992.  With seedstock from five commercial hatcheries and one state-funded hatchery, eighteen farms in Hawaii, South Carolina and Texas produced a record crop, approximately 2,000 metric tons of farm-raised shrimp, 25% more than an estimated 1,600 tons in 1991.  Farms made money—during a period of rather adverse economic conditions!  Without a doubt, the Oceanic Institute’s  high health seedstock  program made the big difference.  The following state-by-state reports provide all the details.


First, a couple of comments: The Oceanic Institute prefers the term “high health” to what previously has been called “specific pathogen free” (SPF) and “disease-free” seedstock.  In this report, based on direct quotes from industry sources, however, you’ll see the three terms used almost interchangeably.  Second, you’ll see a liberal mix of the metric and English measurement systems.  In the United States, 90% of the people think pounds, yards, miles and acres--rather than kilograms, meters, kilometers and hectares.





The Oceanic Institute, a private, nonprofit research institute dedicated to the commercial development of aquaculture in the United States, serves as coordinator of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Consortium, which administers the United States Marine Shrimp Farming Program.  The United States Department of Agriculture provides the funding.  In its September 1992 newsletter, OI reported:


“Between October 1991 and July 1992, over 4,600 SPF broodstock were distributed to companies in South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Texas and Hawaii.  Significant quantities of high health postlarvae are being produced from these broodstock and stocked into commercial systems in each of these regions.”


“‘We estimate that this past spring approximately 150 million high health postlarvae were produced from the SPF broodstock, and nearly all of the USA shrimp industry was stocked with these high health shrimp,’ stated Dr. James Wyban, the program’s principal investigator.”


“As part of the program, SPF shrimp were distributed by The Oceanic Institute to a number of companies and organizations--including Amorient Aquafarms in Hawaii, Harlingen Shrimp Farm in Texas, Red Ewald in Texas, Shrimp Culture, Inc., in Florida, and Waddell Mariculture Center in South Carolina--to grow high health broodstock for the coming year.”


“In addition, postlarvae from The Oceanic Institute were distributed by the University of Arizona to farmers in western Arizona and California to produce high health broodstock.”


“The Oceanic Institute does not distribute shrimp outside the United States; international organizations seeking supplies of high health shrimp should contact private farms for purchase information.”


At a recent Oceanic Institute-sponsored conference on shrimp diseases, Nick Carpenter, president of Pacific Aquaculture Technology, Inc. (below), and Dr. James Brock, an aquaculture disease specialist with the State of Hawaii Aquaculture Development Program, presented some of their findings on high health seedstock:


“In late December 1990, Amorient Aquafarm received SPF Penaeus vannamei  broodstock.  These shrimp were founder-generation stock collected by the USA Shrimp Consortium as postlarvae in Mexico and grown to broodstock at the quarantine facility of The Oceanic Institute in Hawaii.”


“Improved production was noted immediately with the progeny of the SPF broodstock.”


1. Many of the non-SPF postlarvae harvested from nursery ponds were less than 0.25 gram, while the average size of the SPF animals was approximately 1 gram.


2. There was a dramatic reduction of runt deformity syndrome in earthen semi-intensive ponds and in an intensive round pond stocked with SPF animals.


3. Ponds stocked with IHHNV-infected shrimp showed a slow growth rate and less production per acre when compared to SPF animals.


4. Using three successive round pond harvests as an example, the SPF crop yielded a 62.5% higher return than the non-SPF harvests.


5. In one non-SPF harvest, 8% of the shrimp were below marketable size and 53% were under 8.5 grams.  In comparison, 100% of the SPF crop was salable, with only 3% weighing less than 9.5 grams.  Similar results were obtained from earthen ponds.


6. Since SPF shrimp have been stocked at Amorient, IHHNV infection has not been detected histologically in P. vannamei  samples (N=270) from ponds on the site.


7. Stocking the progeny of SPF broodstock on an IHHNV-contaminated farm where runt deformity syndrome was a serious problem resulted in the virtual elimination of RDS and improved production and profitability.


Private Sector Developments: Nick Carpenter, president of Pacific Aquaculture Technology, Inc., reports: “Amorient Aquafarm, Inc., of Kahuku, Hawaii, and the Taiyo Fisheries Company, Ltd., of Tokyo, Japan, are pleased to announce the formation of Pacific Aquaculture Technology, Inc. (PACT).  PACT is a joint venture formed to expand production of high health, specific pathogen free penaeid shrimp nauplii and broodstock.  Initially, production will be Penaeus vannamei,  with P. monodon  and P. japonicus  to follow.  The expanded SPF production will be in newly renovated isolation and production facilities in Kahuku.”


“Extensive field trials have been conducted in Hawaii with SPF P. vannamei  over the past three years, focusing on the comparison of SPF stocks versus IHHNV-infected populations in intensive (100 plus animals per square meter) and semi-intensive (10 to 15 animals per square meter) commercial culture systems.  In both production systems, Amorient’s research has clearly demonstrated superior performance of SPF stocks as measured by improved growth rate, significantly greater uniformity of size at harvest, superior feed conversion ratios and virtual elimination of characteristic IHHNV-related deformities.  Similar results have been obtained elsewhere in the U.S. this year using Hawaiian-produced SPF seedstock.”


“Of particular interest is that improved performance has been demonstrated when SPF postlarvae have been introduced into IHHNV-contaminated growout system.  After two seasons of restocking a commercial growout facility with disease-free stock, the incidence of demonstrably IHHNV-affected animals from harvested shrimp has been reduced to near zero.”


“The first quantities of SPF nauplii and broodstock for sale from the new facility are expected in the spring of 1993.”


Richard Fassler and Dean Toda with the State of Hawaii Aquaculture Development Program provided this update on shrimp farming in Hawaii:


“The principal market for Hawaii’s aquaculture industry has been the ethnic community--primarily Filipino--which demands fresh and often live products.  Freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) farmers in the late 1960s, with dreams of exporting their animals to expensive restaurants on the Mainland, soon discovered that it made more business sense to sell in Chinatown or through a system of Filipino vendors who rang up impressive sales in sugar plantation camps.”


“When shrimp farming began in the early 1980s, the pattern held true: Southeast Asians continued to absorb the supply of fresh product.  In those days, imports of frozen farmed shrimp were negligible and prices remained strong.  Because shrimp could be produced in far greater volume than prawns and sold at similar prices, Hawaii experienced a shrimp ‘boom’, with Marine Culture Enterprises initiating a multi-million dollar intensive shrimp project, and Amorient Aquafarm converting the majority of its 143 acres of ponds to the saltwater animal.  Several other smaller farms also jumped in.”


“Shrimp production peaked in 1987, with slightly more than a million pounds produced, valued at $3.8 million.  Then disease became a persistent and debilitating problem, forcing the sale of MCE (acquired by Pacific Sea Farms) and requiring farmers to shorten their growout time, which resulted in less than 14-gram animals.  With shrimp sizes down, Macrobrachium  enjoyed a comeback, filling restaurant demand for large tails.  Prawn prices shot up to $8.00 a pound for the live animal, while shrimp sold in the $4.00 to $5.00 dollar a pound range.”


“Shrimp production for 1992 is estimated at 435,000 pounds and valued at $1.6 million.  The surviving operations have learned to cope with disease by using disease-free stock and targeting ‘niche’ markets.  Seventy-five percent of Amorient’s production, for example, is made up of a ‘mid-size’ 10-15 gram shrimp for the ethnic market.  The other 25% is mainly sold to tourists from a roadside stand.  Ninety percent of Pacific Sea Farm’s volume consists of a 2-gram ‘popcorn’ shrimp which mostly Filipinos purchase.  Thanks to a highly efficient hatchery operation and a short 7-week growout, the future for this product looks extremely bright.  The other 10% is a 25-30 gram animal which is sold to restaurants to compete with prawns.  The other major player, Molokai Sea Farms, sells mostly a 10-gram product on Molokai and Maui islands.”


“Hawaii shrimp farmers have survived a disease crisis and adjusted their production to fit their particular marketing strategy.  But challenges remain.  As noted above, fresh product has always been the key to aquaculture success.  The customer could differentiate local/fresh shrimp from imported/frozen shrimp by the fact that heads-on meant Island-raised.  No more.  A few years ago, foreign shrimp producers discovered a sizable market for head-on product in Europe and in USA cities with large ethnic populations.  The key to this market was the use of sulfides to preserve the whole animal.  When these sulfided shrimp hit Honolulu’s Chinatown and were sold thawed, confusion reigned supreme.  Which shrimp was from Hawaii?  The State Department of Health (DOH) required the imported product to carry ‘sulfided’ and ‘previously frozen’ labels, but enforcement often proved to be weak and inconsistent.  Some vendors took advantage of the situation by passing imported shrimp off as Hawaii-grown.  Most fortunately, the DOH is now moving more aggressively against the offending sellers and local shrimp sales appear to be once again on the rise.”


“Another threat from abroad: In recent years, there have been tremendous increases in the volume of imported shrimp.  This has caused heavy price competition, particularly between local product and 13-15 gram frozen/imported product.  Retail prices for this size dropped to as low as $3.00 a pound in some ethnic markets.  In order to compete, Hawaii farmers decreased prices from $4-5 to $3-4 a pound.  With forecasts of even greater shrimp production and lower prices from the Orient, farmers will be forced to cut costs or lower prices further, or diversify their operations.”



South Carolina


Waddell Mariculture Center: Steve Hopkins, manager of the Waddell Mariculture Center, reports on the Center’s shrimp farming program during 1992:


“Research and development efforts at the Waddell Mariculture Center in South Carolina addressed a broad range of shrimp hatchery and shrimp growout issues in 1992.”


“Broodstock production trials yielded 38 to 42 gram shrimp in 188 days at a density of 1.6/m2.  Broodstock from the previous season were held in tanks overwinter.  After being placed in maturation tanks in the spring, mating rates were 5.8% per night.  In the course of routine maturation, black necrotic lesions were noticed on the pleopods of the broodstock.  The occurrence of the black pleopod lesions was correlated with the presence of small sea anemones attached to the tank walls.  Pleopod damage by anemones resulted in secondary infections by the bacteria Vibrio alginolyticus.  In controlled experiments, shrimp which did not come in contact with anemones did not develop the black pleopod lesions and were not positive for the bacterial infection.”


“A flow-through spawning tank which selectively harvests the strongest larvae, based on phototactic response, was designed and tested.  The larvae which were harvested from the tank during the first 15 minutes performed better in a salinity-shock stress test than larvae which were harvested later.”


“A ‘head-start’ raceway nursery system was built and used for the first time in 1992.  The raceways were stocked at 9,000 and 13,000 postlarvae per square meter and reared for 50 days.  At harvest, mean size was 0.3 and 0.7 grams for the low and high density raceways, respectively.  Survival was an unimpressive 57%.”


“Head-started juveniles were compared to direct-stocked postlarvae in growout trials.  After the shrimp reached a gram, growth of 0.91 gram per week for both juveniles and postlarvae indicated that the head-start raceway resulted in neither compensatory growth nor stunted growth once the shrimp were moved to growout.  Survival of both postlarvae and juveniles was excellent (too high actually).  By harvest, the postlarvae had grown to 14.5 grams and the juveniles had grown to 17.3 grams.”


“The program to develop intensive shrimp pond systems which do not require water exchange and have minimal impact on the environment demonstrated that 7,000 kilograms per hectare per crop can be produced with no water exchange.  The two no-exchange ponds were stocked with 0.3 gram juveniles and produced 16.3 to 19.0 gram shrimp with excellent survival.  Careful feed management so as not to overload the assimilative capacity of the pond is critical to successful production without water exchange.”


“A ‘hyper-intensive’ production experiment had mixed results.  Postlarvae stocked directly in growout ponds at a density of 200/m2 were harvested at 14.6 to 15.9 grams with 81% to 84% survival and production of 23,602 to 27,542 kilograms per hectare per crop.  Ponds stocked at 400/m2 produced 16.7 to 16.8 gram shrimp, but survival was only 35% to 44% and production was 23,375 to 29,249 kilograms per hectare per crop.  Further work is planned to investigate the physical and biological barriers to hyper-intensive production in outdoor ponds.”


“The eleven commercial shrimp farms in South Carolina stocked 91.4 hectares with 51.4 million postlarvae in 1992.  Production is expected to reach 450 metric tons.  Most farms had record-high production in 1992.  Nearly all of the postlarvae were from domestic hatcheries using high health broodstock.”


“South Carolina is still considering the regulation of postlarvae to prevent the introduction of non-indigenous shrimp diseases.  The consensus among the shrimp farmers and the S.C. Wildlife and Marine Resources Department is that such regulations are in everyone’s best interest.  However, it is felt that such regulations are impractical at this point as the disease diagnostic procedures are still too slow and inconclusive to be used as regulatory tools.  In addition, it is yet to be seen if there are sufficient supplies of high health postlarvae to meet the demand of S.C. shrimp farmers.  Development of disease diagnostic procedures and the postlarvae importation situation are being monitored very closely and the escapement prevention regulations imposed last year are rigidly enforced.  A program to document escapement found less than a dozen escaped shrimp in trawler catches during the 1992 season.”


Private Sector Developments: Frank Taylor, operations director at LightHouse Seafoods, which currently leases the Edisto Shrimp Company and Atlantec shrimp farm in South Carolina, reports on the state’s 1992 shrimp farming season:


“At the time of this writing, all of South Carolina’s shrimp farms have not yet been harvested.  However, based on what has been harvested and on previous years’ yields, I think it is safe to say that better than 900,000 pounds of shrimp will be harvested from shrimp ponds in South Carolina this year.  A total of 227.9 acres was farmed commercially in South Carolina in 1992, and 4.5 acres by state researchers.  Stocking densities ranged from 5 per square meter at one private farm to 400 per square meter at the state’s research facility, The Waddell Mariculture Center.  In general, all farms enjoyed better survival and good growth this year.  This can be attributed to the improved (SPF) postlarvae brought into the state from Texas and Hawaii.  There is great interest in the public and private sectors for a hatchery to be built in South Carolina.  At this point, it is uncertain as to whether or not this will take place, but several private concerns have plans to build hatcheries, and the state is planning to enlarge its research hatchery to meet some of the commercial needs.  Over 55,000,000 postlarvae were stocked in South Carolina in 1992.”


“Although the year did not go without some disappointments, significant accomplishments were achieved.  The Waddell Mariculture Center had yields of over 27,000 pounds per acre in some of its ponds stocked at 200 postlarvae per square meter, and LightHouse Seafoods Atlantec, Inc., produced 40,000 pounds of shrimp in a 2-acre pond, stocked at 135 postlarvae per square meter.  Some problems due to insufficient pumping capabilities and dissolved oxygen kills due to power and/or equipment failures were experienced at some of the farms.”


“At least one farm in South Carolina was unable to operate this year because of the lengthy permitting process that all new shrimp farms must go through.  Between 3 and 7 agencies, both state and federal, get involved in many overlapping areas and the process can take up to a year.  These agencies need to get together and streamline the process.”


“Getting feed shipments to farms on time was another problem experienced by South Carolina farms this year.  This problem has prompted several new companies to start looking at producing feed closer to, if not in, the state.”


“Although not as bad as in past years, black spot continues to show up on cultured shrimp.  This usually occurs late in the season when low temperatures and slow growth extend the molt cycle.  Research is needed to determine what, if anything, can be done to get rid of black spot.”


“All in all, shrimp mariculture is alive and well in South Carolina.  Adequate supplies of (SPF) postlarvae, more reliable feed deliveries, streamlining of the permitting process, and reduction of black spot lead the list of high priority items that need to be addressed before next year.”





Granvil Treece, aquaculture specialist with the Texas A&M University, reports on the 1992 shrimp farming season in Texas:


“Overall, the 1992 growing season for Texas shrimp aquaculture producers was a very good one.  Even though the record breaking spring and summer rains caused some problems with low salinities in the ponds during stocking and caused some algae crashes in ponds, the final production levels were very high.  These record breaking rains also affected the wild shrimp harvest in 1992 and in some areas of Texas the coastal production was off as much as 50% when the season opened in July, compared to previous years.”


“Several of the shrimp aquaculture farms attempted a two crop season.  The low salinities during the first crop caused slow growth and some of the first harvests in July were poor (1,000 pounds per acre), but the rains tapered off during August, September and October, and most of the one- long-crop-per-season farms produced very well.”


“Some of Harlingen Shrimp Farm’s intensive ponds produced 4,300 pounds per acre and higher.  One of the three groups operating at the old Chung Mei Shrimp Farm site reported harvests of 8,000 pounds per acre and several 6,000 and 7,000 pounds per acre harvests.  The Harlingen Shrimp Farm personnel attribute the good production this year (in part) to high health animals.  Interestingly, some of their ponds which were stocked directly with postlarvae did as well as the head-started ponds stocked with larger animals which had been stockpiled in nurseries.  Survivals in both cases were considered high.”


“Lone Star Hatchery has added a very large maturation building and will probably start up in February or March and begin stocking in April or May, depending upon the length of the winter, and spring temperatures.  Lone Star will produce exclusively for Hung’s Shrimp Farm.”


“South Texas Hatchery is still under construction and in its ‘learning curve’ phase.  It will continue to expand algae and larval capabilities.  If all goes well in 1993, South Texas will use four maturation tanks to produce high health nauplii for the Lone Star Hatchery.”


Fritz Jaenike: Fritz Jaenike, hatchery manager at Harlingen Shrimp Farm, which is selling high health seedstock in international markets, reports on his shrimp farming experiences in 1992:


“Harlingen Shrimp Farms, Ltd., recently completed its 1992 production season.  It has been an exceptional year.  Our hatchery produced a record number of postlarvae, and our farm had outstanding production.”


“Harlingen Shrimp Farms, Ltd., has been working with the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Consortium for two years to evaluate the use of specific pathogen free (SPF) brood shrimp.  The SPF brood shrimp were imported from The Oceanic Institute of Hawaii and used to propagate high health postlarvae on a commercial basis.  Primary comparisons conducted in growout ponds in 1991 resulted in higher survivals and more uniform size distribution with the offspring of the SPF brood versus selected farm stocks.  In 1992, only high health postlarvae were sold by our hatchery and stocked on our farm.  Overall survival from postlarvae to harvest was 50% better over the past years and a uniform size distribution has been a consistent result when using the high health postlarvae.  We have had feedback from other farms which have stocked our postlarvae and the results there have also been positive.  Many of these farms have already reserved their postlarval orders for the 1993 season.”


“With these encouraging results, Harlingen Shrimp Farm has plans underway to continue producing only high health postlarvae and nauplii.  Presently, Harlingen Shrimp Farm is making postlarvae allocations for 1993 and deposits for these orders are being accepted on a first-come first-serve basis.”


Tony Reisinger, marine extension agent with the Texas A&M University Marine Advisory Service, reports:


“In 1992, production of cultured marine shrimp (P. vannamei)  in Cameron County, Texas, totaled 3.2 million pounds (heads-on) from 1,060 acres of ponds yielding an average of just over 3,000 pounds per acre.  This was up significantly from last year’s 1,700 pound per acre average.  The increase can be attributed to the majority of ponds being stocked with high health shrimp--offspring from specific pathogen free stock.  Milder temperatures this fall also contributed to a longer growing season, especially when compared to last year’s season which was cut short by a devastating cold snap in early November that decimated the crop.”


“Adverse growing conditions prevailed this past spring when heavy El Niño-related rains caused low salinities (0-3 ppt) in the Arroyo Colorado--the water source for two major farms.  The low salinities affected double cropping and reduced yields in the first crop.  Pond owners who raised a high health single crop had a definite advantage with yields averaging over 6,100 pounds per acre.”


“With promising results from the high health stocks, Harlingen Shrimp Farm on Laguna Madre plans to stock its full 450 acres next year.  We project most of the 1,345 available acres in Cameron County will be stocked with high health P. vannamei  next year.  Farmers will shoot for one crop with a potential yield of 4 million pounds.  Issues coming to the forefront are effluents, escapements and the availability of seedstock.”


Granvil Treece: On November 19, 1992, Granvil Treece faxed a final “best guesstimate” on the Texas harvest: “Production of 3,492,140 pounds, from 1,138 acres, averaging 3,068 pounds per acre.”


Sources: 1. Newsline. OI SPF Shrimp distribution valued over $300,000. V-5, N-3, P-3, September 1992.  2. Growth and survival of virus-infected and SPF P. vannamei  on a shrimp farm in Hawaii. Nick Carpenter and James Brock.  Presented at The Asian Interchange Program on Shrimp Diseases, The Oceanic Institute, April 1992.  3. Fax from Nick Carpenter dated November 13, 1992.  4. Fax from Richard Fassler and Dean Toda dated November 17, 1992.  5. Fax from Steve Hopkins,Waddell Mariculture Center dated November 9, 1992.  6. Fax from Frank Taylor, LightHouse Seafoods, Inc., dated November 17, 1992.  7. Fax from Granvil Treece, Texas A&M University, Sea Grant College Program, dated November 16, 1992.  8. Fax from Fritz Jaenike, Harlingen Shrimp Farm, Ltd., dated November 18, 1992.  9. Fax from Tony Reisinger, Texas A&M University Marine Advisory Service, dated November 18, 1992.  10. Fax from Granvil Treece dated November 19, 1992.  11. Updated and lightly edited by Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, June 28, 2017.

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