Myanmar eyes grassroots approach to protect shrimp industry
By Ruby Gonzalez
Tighter quarantine control checks and a more complete diagnostics capability within the government and non-government labs have been recommended to safeguard the Myanmar shrimp aquaculture industry against major disease outbreaks.
Dr. Kevin M. Fitzsimmons, team leader at Myanmar Sustainable Aquaculture Program, said that the Department of Fisheries has quarantine and health certification requirements for imports of shrimp. But movement of larvae and post-larvae within the country is not as closely monitored.
“Biosecurity could be improved with closer control of domestic movements of shrimp and a more complete diagnostics capability within the government and non-governmental labs,” he said.
While Myanmar shares borders with five countries, there is only one quarantine check post, which is at the Yangon International Airport, for imported aquatic livestock.
In order to keep up demand for post-larvae, supply is mostly imported from Thailand and Bangladesh.
Should a major outbreak occur, it would be a farm-on-its-own scenario.
“There is only one federal diagnostics centre and one university-based lab nationally, both based in Yangon, while the intensive farms are quite distant in other states,” said Fitzsimmons.
His proposal faces many challenges. “First, the Department of Fisheries is underfunded and staff are overcommitted to tasks,” he said. “There are a limited number of inspectors able to meet imports and collect samples. There are no dedicated quarantine facilities available so quarantines are typically required on destination farms or at a government hatchery, which raises obvious risks.”
While the Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory has received support from international donors, there still is a need for additional upgrades and training for professional staff.
He has identified investment opportunities in the situation, particularly facilities that hold animals in quarantine or have rapid diagnostic ability.
“Yangon University has been able to develop a fairly sophisticated diagnostics and aquatic animal health lab in their Fisheries and Aquaculture Center. Some of the private sector farms have also instituted their own diagnostics capacity in lieu of government capabilities. Others have provided test kits, primers, and needed reagents so that the government lab can provide needed services,” he said.
Myanmar’s shrimp farming industry has two sectors. The extensive, traditional trap-and-hold farming system, rears mostly native P. monodon, and has relatively few shrimp disease outbreaks. The other is the intensive farming of imported L. vannamei. Initial ventures on this had serious diseases in the early stages. Specific pathogen-free stocks and careful management seem to have controlled significant disease outbreaks recently, he said.