The “extra mile” to recover the sustainable shrimp industry in Belize

Posted on
16 January 2020

In November 2019, Dr. Ignacio de Blas, an aquatic animal health epidemiologist from the University of Zaragoza conducted two workshops on Epidemiology and Biosecurity in Belize, with the participation of technical staff from the 14 shrimp farms of the country.  The purpose was to take the first steps towards recovering the sustainable shrimp industry in Belize.  This is a story of how to struggle against adversity to secure conservation.

In April 2015, 95% of Belize’s shrimp production was certified under the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) with support from WWF. That same year in July, atypical mortalities of shrimps were reported in Belize and by the end of the year it was confirmed that the shrimp industry was being affected by an outbreak of  Vibrio parahaemolyticus known as EMS or early mortal syndrome.

From that moment on, several efforts have been made to take up the industry’s sustainability.  WWF Mesoamerica has identified an opportunity to achieve it. 

The illness that was originated in 2015 destroyed the shrimp industry in Belize.  Since 2016 WWF has been working to improve the production systems in order to improve the production to reach the levels of 2014 with an environmentally friendly approach.  

Finally, a solution is foreseen.  Currently the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through its Compete Caribbean program with technical support from WWF, are financing a project to establish a bio secure zone for shrimp production in Belize.

To develop the bio-secure zone, the IDB/Compete Caribbean project has hired the services of a firm that includes the Zaragoza University from Spain.

It is expected that by mid-2020 management plan for the bio secure zone has been published, including a real-time risk analysis platform which allows shrimp entrepreneurs to take better decisions towards the risk management of this kind of diseases.

Once the biosecurity plan is implemented, it is expected that the industry will retake the according actions to re-certify their operations with the ASC standard and continue demonstrating their commitment for a responsible aquaculture to the society and the environment.