CHENNAI: To sustain the phenomenal growth of brackishwater aquaculture and neutralise the threat of diseases, the Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA) has launched a nation-wide drive to accredit laboratories that do polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on aquatic animals.
In the last five years, production of farmed shrimp crossed 3.5 lakh tonnes and seafood export revenues touched $5 billion.
PCR laboratories provide detection services to the shrimp farming industry. Usually, farmers give seed to three to four laboratories for testing and at times laboratories provide contradictory results leading to confusion among farmers. “Important decisions are taken based on the results provided by these laboratories. So, it is important to standardise and have validated protocols for the results to be consistent and accurate,” CIBA director KK Vijayan told Express.
According to a report, only 40-60 per cent of PCR laboratories are functioning reliably. So, CIBA being the national referral laboratory for brackishwater aquatic animal diseases, is carrying out a study to assess the quality of PCR screening available to small holder shrimp farmers and to identify the sources of disease outbreaks in shrimp ponds.
In the first phase, 22 labs from Gujarat, Tamil Nadu,Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, have volunteered to participate in the PCR ring test conducted at CIBA campus in Chennai, where they were given samples to detect various bacterial and pathogenic strains in the shrimp seed like white spot disease and the new pathogen Enterocytozoon hepatopenaei (EHP), which is causing havoc currently in entire Asia distorting the animal growth.
This was organised in collaboration with the Coastal Aquaculture Authority (CAA), Marine Products Export Development Authority and Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Aquaculture (RGCA), supported by National Fisheries Development Board, Hyderabad.
CIBA officials said the next step would be to physically verify these 22 labs and then conduct another round of quality assessment before giving certification. “This exercise would pave the way forward for the upkeep of shrimp seed quality in the country contributing towards sustainable shrimp farming. We want to create a pool of accredited labs so as to enable small farmers to get reliable PCR testing services,” a top scientist said.
Coastal Aquaculture Authority (CAA) director R Jayaraman has expressed disappointment over the fact that only 22 labs have come forward to participate in the ring test. “Thirty-one labs have given expression of interest, of which 22 turned up. We request more labs to try and get certification.”
J Sivagnanam, a progressive aqua farmer, said the role to be played by the PCR testing laboratories for the sustainability of aquaculture operations is crucial. Sharing his own experience, he said at times different laboratories give altogether different results on the same sample. “This brings confusion in taking decision at the most crucial juncture of shrimp culture. Therefore, harmonisation of PCR tests among the laboratories is of paramount importance.”