Improving hatchery biosecurity for a sustainable shrimp industry in Bangladesh

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Biosciences

Abstract

Aquaculture (the farming of aquatic animals and plants) is a US$143billion international industry and the fastest growing food production sector globally. It is thought to be the most sustainable source of animal protein and its sustainable development is key for meeting the nutritional needs of the expanding human population. Shrimp has been one of the most valuable internationally traded food commodities for many years, and accounted for a major part (16%) of the global aquaculture export industry in 2016 (US$22.9billion). In Bangladesh, the shrimp industry provides food security, income and employment for an estimated 15 million people (11% of the population) and is the country's second biggest export product, accounting for 3.61% of its GDP. Growth of the industry is largely through intensification of farming methods, but this is not being managed in a sustainable way, resulting in increased levels of disease and substantial environmental impact. The resources, infrastructure, and knowledge required to facilitate the rapid intensification of the industry are lacking, and as a result disease has become a huge economic and social problem. Our team has been working with in-country partners to help gain a better understanding of the diseases affecting the industry and ways in which it can mitigate for future outbreaks. We have identified shrimp hatcheries as a key target for strategies to improve the economic, social and environmental sustainability of shrimp farming. The 59 hatcheries in the Cox's Bazar region of Bangladesh are the foundation of the industry: they collect adult shrimp from the local Bay of Bengal and acquire their eggs, which they rear to a juvenile "seed" stage before onward supply to the 150,000 shrimp farmers across the country. Thus, they play a key role in sustaining the entire industry. Even so, currently they do not produce enough seed to meet demand and are estimated to be operating at less than 50% of capacity, mainly due to disease. Our research has shown that very few Bangladesh hatcheries adhere to the standard operating procedures that have been shown to reduce the incidence and spread of disease, with management practices varying significantly across the industry.

In this project, we will work directly with 25% of the industry (15 hatcheries) in Bangladesh and carry out chemical and biological testing (i.e. testing for disease-causing microbes) of the water and animals at all the different stages of the hatchery process. We will also collect information on the hatchery management practices and finance records. This will allow us to identify ways in which each hatchery can better prevent and manage disease outbreaks whilst minimising their environmental impact. We will visit each hatchery to train all staff on biosecurity and present the data collected, before working with them to produce a bespoke management plan, which we will then support them to implement. We will also follow the seed produced by these "improved" hatcheries, to see whether they perform better than standard seed when introduced to farms, in terms of growth and health. Part of our work will involve working with the recipient farmers, to train them in the best way to introduce seed into their ponds, as our work has shown that this is the point in the farming process which incurs the greatest financial and animal losses. Finally, we will communicate the outcomes of the project through a wide range of media, to promote the uptake of these practices across Bangladesh. This will include institutional blogs and websites, a short online video aimed at a general audience, social media, project reports and peer-reviewed articles, and we will hold a stakeholder workshop at the end of the project to which all hatchery owners and other industry stakeholders will be invited. Overall our work should significantly improve the sustainability of the shrimp industry, by reducing levels of disease and improving the environmental impact.

Planned Impact

The proposed work will reduce disease outbreaks and increase productivity in the Bangladesh shrimp farming industry, by improving the uptake of biosecurity best management practices in the shrimp hatchery sector (the foundation of the industry). We will directly work with 25% of hatcheries to ensure improved biosecurity, but effective and widespread dissemination of evidence supporting the economic benefits afforded by these measures should encourage uptake across the entire sector (59 hatcheries). The wider shrimp industry (which sustains the livelihoods of around 15 million people; 11% of the population), and in turn the national economy, will also benefit from increased access to training and improved employment opportunities, as a result of the predicted increased productivity across the industry. We will create digital training materials that can be quickly and easily disseminated via social media; these will be designed for maximal accessibility to ensure that they are available to all, irrespective of age, gender or literacy level, for maximum reach and impact. Successful implementation of the best management practices identified in the project will also deliver in improved workplace safety for aquaculture workers, including a reduction in the use of, and exposure to, toxic chemicals (e.g. formalin, hydrogen peroxide). Human exposure to pathogens such as Vibrio species, which can cause diarrhoeal disease and Mycobacterium and Erysipelothrix, which cause fish handler's disease, will also be reduced by increased biosecurity at hatcheries and farms, benefitting both workers and their families. Improved biosecurity and reduced chemical (including antibiotic) usage will also improve food safety for domestic and international consumers, and will reduce the selection/dissemination of antimicrobial resistance, a major global health challenge.

Poor water quality is a recognised issue in Bangladesh. We will use data on the levels of aquatic pollution in the water entering hatcheries to encourage wider dialogue on the issue of water quality. Further, our ebook will raise awareness of the importance and value of the local environment to hatchery owners and farmers. Reducing disease and increasing productivity in hatcheries will also help to limit their impact on the local environment, by reducing the release of chemical pollution from hatcheries and minimising the need for wild-caught animals. It will also improve animal welfare in hatcheries and farms by reducing morbidity and mortality. In line with this, our insights into the hatchery microbiome should support more sustainable use of local resources, for example promoting the use of probiotics rather than chemicals for managing animal health. A better understanding of the microbiome will support WorldFish in developing future disease diagnostic facilities, which is the focus of much of their current scientific activities and will enable WorldFish to grow capacity and expertise in the region. Our work will also help to validate PCR testing, which is seen as an important development opportunity for the aquaculture industry and is the focus of much investment and development research. Our comparative histopathology and sequencing data will help to better establish the value of PCR testing for future disease diagnostic facilities, informing future investment by WorldFish and the private sector in this area. Indeed, providing evidence of the economic impacts of increased biosecurity and generating greater demand for disease-free larvae from shrimp should help to attract future investment into diagnostic facilities. In addition, staff at WorldFish and ARBAN will benefit from increased knowledge of biosecurity and access to the digital tools, which they can use for future hatchery visits or workshops, creating a legacy for the current work and a model for future communications campaigns.

Publications

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Stentiford G (2020) Sustainable aquaculture through the One Health lens in Nature Food

 
Description Working with in-country partners, we furthermore identified the first outbreak of Tilapia lake virus in Bangladesh and how analysis of different viral segments may impact on understanding where the pathogen derives geographically which was reported to the Bangladesh government authorities for them to manage as a potential major threat to their national food security. Additionally, this project has played a significant part in informing on the risks of AMR via aquaculture practices in Bangladesh and how this can be managed, including through the development of a video and its dissemination via social media.
However, this project has been severely impacted by the COVID pandemic since March 2020 and as a consequence has experienced delays in delivering research activities.
• COVID lockdowns and restrictions significantly delayed the employment of the research assistants in Bangladesh for undertaking the hatchery survey, work and collection of hatchery samples and socioeconomic data.
• COVID resulted in considerably greater challenges for the administration and management of project tasks due to additional complications that slowed down the associated processes in finance, legal, and ethics approvals.
• Data collection (both biological and socioeconomic) took longer because of the need to operate in smaller groups.
• Having to work remotely meant lengthier timescales for training of staff.
• Accessing participants for survey work was much more difficult as the shrimp hatcheries were not open to visitors.
• The GCRF funding announcement for a major funding cut to the project (40%) caused major delays for project operations. We spent over 2 months preparing for this, liaising with UK and overseas partners to re-structure the project, negotiate on the specifics of the partner funding cuts, only to then scrap all of this and change back to original plan after a subsequent announcement that our project would not be subject to cuts. All of these delays also meant we could not access shrimp hatcheries at appropriate times during project.
• We also experience significant problems with the Bangladesh government. In the first instance they would not give project partners approval for digital data collection, resulting in additional administration time and efforts for our work with partners. The Bangladesh government also did not give approval for biological samples to be sent to the UK for testing. As a consequence ,we had to seek ways of getting them analysed in Bangladesh. This incurred further delays due to lack of equipment (freeze-dryer) and appropriately trained staff.
• One of the Worldfish partner's key employees left post mid-project, resulting in further delays in finding a replacement to complete sample analyses and work with hatcheries
• The UK team also had additional workloads during COVID from home schooling children
• We were only able to get a NCE for 2 months. We requested this for 6 months.

Despite all these considerable challenges some very good project progress has still been made against the original objectives.
Exploitation Route national food security
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

 
Description Through a GCRF (GRTA project) we have built on this project partnership to gain funding for promoting prudent pharmaceutical usage in Bangladesh aquaculture with Prof Mahfujul Haque (Bangladesh Agricultural University). We have worked with WorldFish and ARBAN to produce a series of video on best management practice in English and Bangla that will be released in 2021. Pathogen monitoring undertaken for 15 shrimp hatcheries Established current business and management practices (socioeconomic data) Collected information (incl. video footage) on best management practice (in English and in Bangla) to inform on shrimp hatchery biosecurity • Digital training resources to equip senior staff • Bespoke biosecurity advice and support being developed for 25% of Bangladesh shrimp industry • Work has lead to a new ODA funding for increasing sustainability of shrimp broodstock sector (identified as major risk to industry sustainability)
 
Description Funding for promoting prudent pharmaceutical usage in Bangladesh aquaculture
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Videos
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact Through a GCRF (GRTA project) we have built on this project partnership to gain funding for promoting prudent pharmaceutical usage in Bangladesh aquaculture with Prof Mahfujul Haque (Bangladesh Agricultural University). We have worked with WorldFish and ARBAN to produce a series of video on best management practice in English and Bangla that will be released in 2021
 
Description Aquatic Food Security development in Bangladesh
Amount £115,000 (GBP)
Organisation Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2020 
End 03/2021
 
Description Pathogen-host genomic interactions in disease emergence, virulence and resistance
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Organisation Centre For Environment, Fisheries And Aquaculture Science 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start  
 
Description Collaboration with Dr Meezanur Rahman, World Fish Center, Bangladesh 
Organisation Worldfish
Country Malaysia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have worked with WorldFish and ARBAN to produce a series of video on best management practice in English ad Bangla that will be released in 2021.
Collaborator Contribution We have worked with WorldFish and ARBAN to produce a series of video on best management practice in English ad Bangla that will be released in 2021.
Impact Defra /ODA- (£115 000 ). Aquatic Food Security development in Bangladesh. 1/10/20200 31/03/2021 Pathogen-host genomic interactions in disease emergence, virulence, and resistance . Cefas /University fo Exeter funded PhD studentship £25k We have worked with WorldFish and ARBAN to produce a series of video on best management practice in English ad Bangla that will be released in 2021.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Collaboration with Mr Syed Arifuzzaman, ARBAN, Bangladesh 
Organisation Association for Realisation of Basic Needs
Country Bangladesh 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution this project has played a significant part in informing on the risks of AMR via aquaculture practices in Bangladesh and how this can be managed, including through the development of a video and its dissemination via social media.
Collaborator Contribution We have worked with WorldFish and ARBAN to produce a series of video on best management practice in English and Bangla that will be released in 2021.
Impact We have worked with WorldFish and ARBAN to produce a series of video on best management practice in English and Bangla that will be released in 2021.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Research partnership with Bangladesh Agricultural University 
Organisation Bangladesh Agricultural University
Country Bangladesh 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Enabled partners - Mohammad Mahfujul Haque, Neaz Al Hasan, Dr Md. Mehedi Alam, Bangladesh Agricultural University, to identify tilapia lake virus outbreak and inform Bangladesh government
Collaborator Contribution - Supporting in the publication of first tilapia lake virus genome from Bangladesh, after appropriate notification to Bangladesh government authorities - Provision of extensive sample set for microbiome profiling of tilapia and pangasius ponds in Bangladesh (manuscript in preparation)
Impact - Publication of first tilapia lake virus genome from Bangladesh, after appropriate notification to Bangladesh government authorities - Microbiome profiling of tilapia and pangasius ponds in Bangladesh (manuscript in preparation)
Start Year 2018
 
Description Presentation at GW4 AMR symposium: Addressing AMR in Bangladesh aquaculture (Thornber) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact not known
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation at GW4 WSA (Thornber) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact GW4 community attendance
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Science for the predictive understanding of water resources in a changing world. GW4 Water Security Alliance 2020: 2 November 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact GW4 conference 2020 - academic/student audience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://gw4water.com/events/wsa-annual-conference-2020-greater-water-security-regional-research-deli...
 
Description Waking up to Planetary Health 2020: Chemicals and Environmental Health conference Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and the University of Exeter Medical School 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Keynote speech 30/04/2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020