Aquaculture in a genetic plunge towards extinction?

The NACA Secretariat and Department of Fisheries, Thailand, were privileged to host a special guest lecture on 31 May by Prof. Roger W. Doyle, current President of Genetic Computation Ltd., retired Professor of Biology, founding Director of the Marine Gene Probe Laboratory at Dalhousie University in Canada and former President of the International Association for Aquaculture Genetics. Prof. Doyle is well known to many people in the NACA network due to another of his former roles as Coordinator of the Aquaculture Genetics Network in Asia under IDRC, and his role in training many students that now occupy prominent positions in research and government in the region, including the current Director General of NACA. Professor Doyle gave a thought provoking lecture “Artisinal tropical aquaculture in a genetic plunge towards extinction”, a timely reflection on the role between inbreeding and disease, given the current problems with acute pancreatic necrosis syndrome (“early mortality syndrome”) of shrimp.

After the lecture Prof. Doyle was presented with an award by NACA and the Thai Department of Fisheries in recognition of “his significant contributions to the science of aquaculture genetics and related human resource development in the Asia-Pacific region.” The abstract of the lecture is reproduced below. A video podcast of the presentation (highly recommended viewing) is also available for download / online viewing.

Abstract

Artisanal shrimp aquaculture is in a disease-induced crisis of lost production, into which are falling farms, gene pools adapted to farms, and small-hold farming as a way of life. The immediate cause is biological: rising levels of inbreeding and an exceptionally strong, positive relationship between inbreeding and disease which is described here. The root cause is social: a nexus of human behavior in which breeders protect their intellectual property by generating inbreeding (which is expressed only when broodstock is "copied"), local hatcheries sell copied, inbred shrimp to farmers, and farmers suffer the consequences. The likely outcome is replacement of small-hold shrimp farms by capital-intensive corporate aquaculture over vast areas of Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. Alternative outcomes in which artisanal shrimp farming does survive are conceivable, but measures to implement them are neither in place, encouraged nor contemplated by the responsible agencies.