Coast Scientists Look To Stop A New Shrimp Virus

Verlee Breland and Mike Turner stood next to a greenhouse tank and took role. They checked off every color coded shrimp they put into the tank. That way, they would know exactly which Hawaiian shrimp families were part of their latest research project.

Dr. Jeff Lotz was the USM Marine Scientist overseeing the test.

"In here we're trying to get shrimp for aquaculture in the U.S. that are resistant to some of the diseases of shrimp that have been plaguing the industry for the last 10 or so years," he said.

The diseases Dr. Lotz mentioned were never found in shrimp caught in the Gulf of Mexico. But over the years, viruses were detected on shrimp farms. Some were in Texas. Others were overseas. The viruses devastated shrimp crops.

"They will, in fact, on a shrimp farm kill in a matter of several days," Dr. Lotz said.

So in the Gulf Coast Research Lab greenhouse, researchers looked for ways to prevent viruses from attacking shrimp aquaculture.

This weekend, the shrimp will actually be fed the virus. Researchers will look to see which shrimp families are strong enough to survive. That will help scientists accomplish two goals.

"We'll be able to get shrimp that will grow in the presence of some of the diseases," Dr. Lotz said. "And to help accelerate the development of shrimp aquaculture in the U.S."

What needs to be pointed out is that if you eat an infected shrimp, you can't be hurt. The virus simply destroys shrimp families. That eats away at the number of shrimp raised on farms. And that cuts into profits, which is why losing home grown shrimp to the Taura Syndrome virus is something people in the shrimp aquaculture industry would like to prevent.

Before this sort of aquaculture research started, shrimp raised in infected ponds had a 35 percent survival rate. Today, USM researchers said the survival rate is closer to 90 percent.