By Yojaira Paternina Cordoba*
Millions of Dollars in Lost Shrimp Crop in Belize – EMS Implicated
For the past 7 or 8 months, concerns have been growing over significant crop losses in Belize’s shrimp farming industry. Although unusual losses were first reported in March, only recently has the issue been addressed publicly by the government. In early November, Jose Alpuche, who heads up the Agriculture Ministy in Belize stated “There is a viral infection in the industry. It’s been affecting the industry for a few months now.” Nonetheless, various sources have confirmed that the disease in question is actually EMS.
Producers are taking ponds out of production temporarily and acquiring new stocks which may be more resistant. Resistant stocks are credited with much of the rebound seen in Mexico’s shrimp farming industry following devastating losses to EMS. According to Alpuche, “All farms have got to dry out. Basically stop production to clean out and then restart. The industry is taking the hard way around it, but it’s the best way around it. To restock with new genetic material and that’s the wisest decision they could have taken. It’s taking a little time. Originally they thought that they would be able to restock by early next year. But it appears that we will have a few months delay in that industry.
“I don’t know the exact numbers [of people who have lost their jobs], but the farms have had to release in deed labors that would be when you have full production - because they are not in full production. But as far as I understand all the technical people, all the management have actually been kept on while they are in this process of restocking.
“We have not done an update, but the initial estimate [of the industry’s losses] would have been somewhere in the region of about 22 million dollars. But we expect that that may go up.” Subsequent estimates have put the losses as high as $30 million.
Elsewhere, Alpuche stated “…we’re putting new practices in place, so that we mitigate the chances of this recurring.” These will apparently include stocking ponds with tilapia, then removing the fish before restocking with another crop of shrimp. Salinity will also be maintained at lower levels. However, he indicated that because EMS had been present in neighboring countries already, it was only a matter of time before it reached Belize.
Cuba and Mexico Agree to Program for Fisheries and Aquaculture Cooperation
The Ministry of Food Industries of the Cuban Republic and the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food in Mexico (SAGARPA), signed a Cooperation Specific Program on November 10, with the goal of collaborating more closely on training activities and technical assistance in both fisheries and aquaculture.
SAGARPA was represented by Jose Calzada Rovirosa, head of the Secretariat, and the Cuban government was represented by Maria del Carmen Concepcion Gonzalez, Minister of the agency, in conjunction with a meeting between the Presidents of the two countries.
Among the focus points of the agreement will be the promotion and development of aquaculture in inland waters. Experts emphasized the importance of how the relationship would bolster scientific and technical support for food production and security.
Within SAGARPA, the National Commission of Aquaculture and Fisheries (CONAPESCA) will provide technical support to Cuba for hyper-intensive production systems and public policy relating to aquaculture development. Cuba in turn will provide expertise in genetics and breeding of red tilapia, carp production, reservoir management for aquaculture, and sea cucumber culture.
Cooperation in Fisheries and Aquaculture Formalized Between Chile and Ecuador
In another example of bilateral cooperation for aquaculture development, in early November the governments of Chile and Ecuador signed a comprehensive cooperation agreement for aquaculture and fisheries, with an emphasis on sustainable management of marine resources.
Raul Sunico, the head of Chile’s Undersecretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture (SUBPESCA), and Pilar Proano, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries for Ecuador, signed the agreement on November 5 in Chile. Both countries pledged to cooperate in health, environmental and socio-economic aspects of fisheries and aquaculture development, emphasizing the development of public policy and legislation, and the promotion of sustainable consumption of marine resources.
Yojaira Paternina Cordoba has a degree in Animal Husbandry from the National University of Colombia. She currently manages production, technical and marketing activities at Piscicola del Valle, S.A., specializing in production of red tilapia (Oreochromis sp.) and the white cachama (Piaractus brachypomus).