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April 1, 2016


Latin America

Pioneers in Shrimp Farming by Harvey Persyn and Amber Li


Harvey Persyn, one of the pioneers of shrimp farming in the Western Hemisphere, and Amber Li (Persyn), his wife, and also an early participant in shrimp farming in the Western Hemisphere, have contributed a delightful chapter to a new book titled “Progress of Shrimp and Prawn Aquaculture in the World”, edited by I. Chiu Liao, Nai-Hsien Chao and Eduardo M. Leaño.  The title of the Persyn’s chapter is “History and Pioneers in Commercial Shrimp Culture in the Americas”, which is organized around the following headings:


• Abstract (excerpt below)

• Early Attempts at Shrimp Culture (excerpt below)

• Sea Farms

• University of Miami

• Marifarms

• Dow Chemical Company

• Ralston Purina Company

• Discovery of L. vannamei and L. stylirostris (excerpt below)

• Purina’s Brazil Pilot Project

• Agromarina de Panama

• Breeding Shrimp in Captivity (excerpt below)

• Diet Development (excerpt below)

• Species Evaluation (excerpt below)

• Intensive Tank Culture (excerpt below)

• Collaborative Research Efforts

• Impact of the Purina Project on Shrimp Farming

• Costa Rica

• King James Shrimp Project

• Ecuador (excerpt below)

• Brazil, Japanese Influence

• Taiwanese Fisheries Missions

• Brazil, First Commercial Success

• Colombia

• Venezuela

• Aquamarina de la Costa, Venezuela

• Mexico

• Belize

• Guatemala

• References





I could have thrown a dart at the open pages of the Persyn’s chapter and any paragraph that the dart landed in would have been just as good as the excerpts I’ve listed below:


Abstract: Starting in Louisiana in 1966, Jerry Broom was an important early pioneer in shrimp culture in the Americas.  He established the first commercial attempt at shrimp culture in Latin America—the Amour Foods/United Fruit Company project, which was located on the Caribbean coast of Honduras near Puerto Cortes.  He then went to the Pacific Coast of Honduras to manage the Sea Farms project in 1973.  In 1975, he was in Costa Rica helping to establish the Maricultura project, and by 1980, in Ecuador working on hatchery and shrimp farming projects.


Early Attempts at Shrimp Culture: In the Americas, Dr. Robert Lunz, working at the Bears Bluff Fish Hatchery near Charleston, South Carolina, was the earliest pioneer in shrimp culture.  In the 1950s and 1960s, he conducted experiments with pond culture of locally recruited wild postlarvae (PLs).


Discovery of Litopenaeus vannamei and L. stylirostris:In May 1972, a small penaeid was caught with the common name of “pati bianco”, or white-legged shrimp.  It had a spermatophore attached.  David Drennan was aware of this species, but because of its small size and rarity in the catch, it had been ignored.  L. vannamei was about a third of the size of L. occidentalis and made up about 5% of the catch in the fishery.  Being a curious biologist, Drennan took the mated female back to the laboratory and spawned it.  He noted the distinctive red-dot in the center of the body of the nauplius, as well as the stubby appendages.


On this same boat trip, he also caught L. stylirostris, or the blue shrimp.  This species can be over twice the size of L. vannamei, which rarely is larger than 65 grams.  L. stylirostris was the second least abundant in the fishery, at around 10% of the catch, and had been initially ignored for that reason.  The following day the nauplii were sent to the Purina Mariculture Research Center in Crystal River, Florida, where Harvey Persyn and Ron Staha reared the nauplii of the two species until they metamorphosed into PLs.


Breeding Shrimp in Captivity: A patent for breeding shrimp in captivity was applied for in June 1976.  U.S. patent no. 4,031,855 was issued to Harvey Persyn and assigned to Ralston Purina.  This patent covered the entire process of breeding shrimp in captivity, including eyestalk ablation and artificial insemination.


Diet Development: Based on observation in aquaria, L. vannamei consumed aggregated organic material (floc) including feces.  Studies conducted with tracer dyes in feed pellets indicated there was a very short retention time in the gut of the shrimp.  The feed passed completely through the gut in about 30 minutes, which would make it seemingly impossible for the shrimp to fully digest and absorb the nutrients from the feed.  However, considering the feeding habits of L. vannamei, which includes consuming their feces, the secret to their excellent feed conversion efficiency can be understood.  The feces is invaded by filamentous bacteria, fungi, and other marine organisms that greatly increase its nutritional value, and then it’s consumed by the shrimp.


Species Evaluation: Of interest is that L. stylirostris can be mixed with L. vannamei at around 5-10% of the population and will grow extremely well, reaching double the size of the L. vannamei in the same pond.  The explanation offered is that the two species exist in different niches and do not compete for the same natural foods in the pond.  This is not often practiced in commercial operations because the grey flesh of L. stylirostris does not look good, when packed with the golden color of the L. vannamei.  Manually separating them out in the processing plant is not practical, and maintaining more than one species as a captive breeding population is not cost effective for most farms.


Intensive Tank Culture: Discoveries were made on the role of organic floc in L. vannamei nutrition.  Organic floc, which is primarily composed of bacteria, aid in bio-filtration as a site for bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle.  A correlation between total bacterial cell count and growth rate was established.  Adding sugar to the water increased bacterial cell count and had a positive impact on growth rate.  It was demonstrated that shrimp could tolerate 1–2 parts per million ammonia with no ill effects.


Ecuador: In 1969, with picks and shovels, Ecuadorean shrimp farming pioneers started building ponds that were filled by the tides or by pumping.  Very small ponds were used to trap wild PLs that would then be sorted and moved to larger ponds for growout.  Shrimp farming fever got underway in Ecuador in the late 1970s.  Up to 1978, farm-raised shrimp represented only a small portion of shrimp production in Ecuador.  Entrepreneurs Rodrigo Laniado, Alfonso and Enrique Grunaur can be credited with some of the early developments.  They were followed by Esteban Quirola, Peter Shayne, Carlos Velez, Peder Jacobsen, Harry Graham, Dr. Ventimilla, Santiago Maspons, Arturo Vannoni and many others.  Edgar Arellano did much to bring a scientific approach to the industry by establishing CENAIM, Ecuador’s education center for aquaculture and marine research.  In 1977, Ecuadorean shrimp farmers, hearing of the success of the Purina shrimp farm, started making visits there.  Enrique Grunauer and Boanagre Ugarte, shrimp farming pioneers in Ecuador, made a visit in 1977 and attempted to interest Purina in looking at business opportunities in Ecuador.  Also in 1977, Peter Shayne and Russ Allen heard about the technical success of the Purina project in Panama, made a visit there and stayed several weeks.  They tried to convince Ralston Purina that there were abundant opportunities in Ecuador to enter into the shrimp farming business.  Several Purina personnel went to Ecuador to conduct feeding trials, identify wild PLs, identify hatchery sites and to study business opportunities.  Peter Shayne, assisted by Russ Allen, was one of the first in Ecuador to establish semi-intensively managed farms using formulated feeds.


There was a naturally occurring abundance of wild L. vannamei PLs in Ecuador that made it easy for almost anyone to build a pond and start a business.  An artisanal business of collecting wild PLs created employment for thousands of coastal fishermen.  Availability of wild PLs was seasonal and varied from year to year.


Yosuke Hirono left the Purina project and went to Ecuador in 1979.  He assisted in establishing one of the largest and most successful shrimp farms in Ecuador, El Rosario, owned by Santiago Maspons, which grew to over 2,000 hectares of ponds.



Information on The Book and the Persyn’s Chapter


The Book: Progress of Shrimp and Prawn Aquaculture in the World.  I. Chiu Liao, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Department of Aquaculture, College of Life Sciences, National Taiwan Ocean University, 2 Pei-Ning Road, Keelung 20224, Taiwan (Phone +886-2-24623055, Fax +886-2-24634994, Emails and, webpage


The Persyn’s Chapter: History and Pioneers in Commercial Shrimp Culture in the Americas (Pages 67-90).  Harvey Persyn and Amber Li (Persyn), Tropical Mariculture Technology, P.O. Box 959, Floral City, Florida 34436, USA (Email


Source: Progress of Shrimp and Prawn Aquaculture in the World.  Editors I. Chiu Liao, Nai-Hsien Chao and Eduardo M. Leaño.  National Taiwan Ocean University (Keelung, Taiwan), The Fisheries Society of Taiwan (Keelung, Taiwan), the Asian Fisheries Society (Manila, Philippines) and the World Aquaculture Society (Louisiana, USA).  January 2016.

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