Improving Shrimp Production: Approaches from Naqua

We caught up with Dr. Victoria Alday-Sanz, Director of Biosecurity and Breeding Programmes, NAQUA who discusses shrimp breeding, diseases and approaches that have helped NAQUA improve production 

2 February 2020, Dubai, UAE

AgraME: What does biosecurity at NAQUA involve?

Dr. Victoria: Biosecurity is a broad discipline that requires understanding of pathology, epidemiology and farming practices and apply these concepts, to enterprise, national and international levels.  In our case, we collaborate with international agencies such as FAO and OIE for the control of spread of diseases at international level.  

We also work with KSA government to prevent the introduction and spread of pathogens into the kingdom. Finally, we work at enterprise level to minimize the economic impact of diseases.  We do so working from the animal side through the development of disease tolerant animals, breeding selection, expression of robustness genes etc.

From the farming area, we look for optimization of culture conditions for maximum productivity within a frame of healthy conditions by using multiphase systems for instance.  The third area of work is the one on the pathogen implementing surveillance programs and diagnostic techniques for early detection of diseases that allow to minimize the economic impact.


AgraME: What new knowledge have you uncovered in the biosecurity area at NAQUA?

Dr. Victoria: Working in Naqua and KSA has been fascinating. We have been able to do so in a coordinated manner, all the industry together with great support from the government.  Developing and implementing sanitary strategies at such a large scale has been key for its success.   The use of Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) and Specific Pathogen Tolerance (SPT) broodstock has been pioneering in the shrimp industry creating a new paradigm in shrimp health management.


What kinds of diseases are the shrimp in KSA susceptible to?

Dr. Victoria: It all depends on the culture conditions.  If proper practices are not in place, the immune system is compromised and they may become susceptible to a range of pathogens.  There are no short cuts, no matter what may be advertised by commercial companies.


At the conference you will be talking about genetic and epigenetic approaches to shrimp breeding for disease control. Can you tell us a little about how these approaches have helped at NAQUA? 

Dr. Victoria: Tolerance to white spot virus and robustness to bacterial infection, low oxygen and high salinity have been key for the exponential growth of KSA and NAQUA production.  


What are the most exciting new discoveries and developments in epigenetics that you feel will have an impact on Aquaculture in the future?

Dr. Victoria: Epigenetics is as important as genetics.  It really got my attention when reading a scientific communication about how it was possible to detect the impact of hunger in gene expression in a third generation. In other words. if a woman suffered hunger, it could be detected in her grandchild.  So, the impact of negative conditions do not affect only the animal all along its live cycle, but the impact is transgenational.  This has been confirmed in some animal species. So, we apply this idea and we look the best conditions for our broodstock so positive traits will be also transmitted transgenerationally.