How do we responsibly increase aquacultured seafood production? It is a question that requires a tailored and comprehensive suite of recommendations, especially on a national level. In 2021, a TCRS-led group advised the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on growing their sustainable marine aquaculture sector without environmental damage to the unique oligotrophic ecosystems of the Red Sea. The TCRS team included experts on farming of salmon, shrimp, barramundi, and seaweeds, as well as RAS systems, semi-closed floating net pens, and marine spatial planning and monitoring. Funded by the World Bank Group, the project recommended international best practices tailored for KSA’s geography, conditions, and species to achieve targeted increases in productivity without compromising environmental sustainability.
KSA has two distinct coastlines: 1,760 km to the west along the Red Sea and 570 km to the east in the Arabian Gulf. The marine and coastal environment in the Kingdom is endowed with rich biodiversity encompassing 1,280 fish species, 44 shark species, 317 coral species, 113 avifauna species, and more than 2,000 mollusk species. Major ecosystems include marine islands, seagrass beds, mangroves, coral reefs, algal beds, mud flats, salt marshes, and wadis.
Over the past decades, increased pressures on the environment and natural resources have led to significant environmental degradation. KSA is cognizant of both the richness and fragility of its natural capital. The goal is to protect the biodiversity of the Kingdom’s fragile ecosystems, while sustaining the contributions they make to human well-being.
Pathogens are ever present in the natural environment. Management of animal health requires an understanding of the virulence, life cycle, diagnostics, transmission, and exclusion mechanisms of each pathogen. This understanding is particularly challenging with unknown pathogens that either emerge through natural processes or are introduced from other regions. Between 2011-14, TCRS conducted four projects that were instrumental in helping the aquaculture industry deal with new pathogens in different regions of the world.
In 2011, four years after the devastating effects of Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAV) on the Chilean salmon industry, TCRS received funding from World Bank Group to assemble a group of international experts to analyze the recovery that was executed by a strong partnership of government, industry, and financial institutions. The objective of the analysis was to extract lessons learned that might prevent or mitigate the impacts of widespread infectious diseases that could cause catastrophic damage to industry and communities.
Sharing the Knowledge: To accelerate transfer of this knowledge to the global aquaculture industry, the findings were presented to an international gathering of global aquaculture leaders in Santiago, Chile in 2011. They were also reported in trade publications, made accessible on the Web, and became part of the knowledge library of World Bank Group for its use in advising governments.
In this World Bank Group supported project, TCRS assembled a group of experts in 2012 to investigate a massive disease outbreak which had no defined symptoms or cause. The lessons learned from this study not only improved management of Acute Hepatopancreatic Necrosis Syndrome (AHPNS), but also led to a new appreciation of the importance of the microbial community in ponds.
Sharing the Knowledge: Because of the importance of this work, much effort went into disseminating the information, including holding a panel discussion of scientists and industry members at the Global Outlook for Aquaculture Leaders (GOAL) conference in Paris in 2013. As a result of that panel, the Indian government instituted quarantine procedures that have prevented the entry of this disease into India. Additionally, this information was communicated by webinar with over 600 people participating. A year after completion of the study, two members of the expert panel succeeded in identifying the causative pathogen, Vibrio parahaemolyticus.
With an outbreak of White Spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV) happening in Mozambique and Madagascar, TCRS experts funded by World Bank Group in 2013 determined that it had been carried to the Mozambique Channel from the Middle East, where an outbreak had occurred the previous year. WSSV was assumed to have contaminated crustaceans throughout the Channel, which posed a threat to any shrimp farming operation using water from the Channel. Recovery at the farm level required the installation of enhanced water filtration and treatment systems, as well as an end to the use of wild broodstock. Collaborative discussions were initiated between Mozambique and Madagascar toward development of a shared broodstock domestication program with selection for WSSV resistance. Several changes in the regulatory area were also recommended, such as a comprehensive animal health policy.
In this 2014 project, the Global Aquaculture Alliance in collaboration with TCRS undertook a survey of farm management practices across the entire range of Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS) to determine which practices were most effective in managing the disease. The outcome was the remarkable result that certain genetic lines of Pacific white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) used in Mexico were tolerant of the disease and yielded much higher survival rates.
Sharing the Knowledge: These results, which were announced at the GOAL 2014 meeting, resulted in a rapid shift in genetic lines of shrimp used in Asia – especially China, where those lines presently represent about 70% of production or about 500,000 metric tons per year. This important work was sponsored by the Seafood Industry Research Fund (SIRF) with support from ALLFISH, a World Bank Group public-private partnership. In 2015, TCRS received a grant from the Resources Legacy Fund to develop online education modules for conveying practical information to shrimp farms in Vietnam about management of EMS. TCRS collaborated with the University of New Hampshire to develop the online education modules, sharing vital information.
In 2016, TCRS received a grant from the World Bank Global Partnership for Food Safety to develop and demonstrate the use of a common, open source, education platform for aquaculture product safety. The first year of the project focused on Malaysia, and the second year focused on Vietnam. This project also led to the development of online education modules for food safety.