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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Shrimp farms get boost

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

Hawai'i's high-tech shrimp farming industry hopes for a marketing boost from a new designation of U.S.-farmed shrimp as an environmentally friendly product.

Bruce Anderson, president of the Oceanic Institute, at Makapu'u, holds shrimp harvested from the "super-intensive production raceway" in the background. Oceanic is a leader in shrimp research.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

The group Environmental Defense, as part of its Oceans Alive program, has listed domestic shrimp as an "Eco-Best" seafood selection. The designation is an indication that products are produced in an environmentally appropriate way and that they are low in hazardous contaminants when consumed.

"It's important to get the word out that Hawai'i's shrimp are among the best in the world, and this program should help us do that," said Paul Bienfang, who represents the 40-acre Ceatech shrimp operation on Kaua'i.

It's a big potential market, since shrimp grown in the United States now represents less than 1 percent of the total shrimp consumed in the nation.

Aquaculture, including shrimp farming, was the fastest-growing part of the Hawaiian agricultural industry in 2003, with sales at $27.65 million — 9.8 percent more than in 2002. Aquaculture grew 13 percent the year before.

It has not been an industry without problems. A virus got into Ceatech's ponds earlier this year, requiring that they all be drained and 20 million shrimp be buried. Still, officials say the Environmental Defense support for domestic shrimp is a sign of hope for the industry's future.

"This is exciting news for Hawai'i's shrimp farmers. This important endorsement of U.S.-farmed shrimp from a prestigious organization like Environmental Defense will help create even more demand for high-quality shrimp," said Bruce Anderson, president of Oceanic Institute.

Oceanic Institute at Makapu'u is a leader in shrimp research and has developed virus-free and disease-resistant shrimps.

Those products are now the basis of more than 90 percent of the shrimp raised in the United States. They allow shrimp farmers to produce healthy crops with less loss to disease, and also prevent the transmission of disease into wild animals in the local environment.

Go online to see best choices

For the Environmental Defense list of best and worst choices in seafood, see www.environmentaldefense.org/

The institute, working with the United States Marine Shrimp Farming Program, has also worked with farmers to find ways to reduce shrimp farming's damage to the environment, improving efficiency and reducing pollution.

"Many U.S. shrimp farms have adopted management practices that greatly reduce their environmental impact. Farms avoid environmental pitfalls, such as frequent wastewater discharges, that have bedeviled shrimp farming aboard," said Environmental Defense's Rebecca Goldburg.

Much of wild-caught shrimp is harvested in a way that also entraps a great deal of unwanted sealife, which is discarded — often dead.

"Most shrimp production outside the U.S. entails considerable habitat destruction or bycatch," according to Environmental Defense.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.