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Fast Growing Prawn Breakthrough Helps Farmers

AUSTRALIA and ASIA - Queensland University of Technology (QUT) scientists have helped develop a prawn that grows 25 per cent faster than other cultured strains to feed people depending on one of Asia's great rivers.


A giant freshwater prawn strain QUT researchers recently introduced in Fiji.

Researchers from QUT's Faculty of Science and Technology have been working with scientists from national aquaculture research agencies to support development in the Mekong River Basin, which crosses six countries in south-east Asia.

Professor Peter Mather, the Biogeosciences discipline leader at QUT, said 60 million people living in the Mekong River Basin relied on fish and prawns for animal protein and their livelihoods.

"Freshwater prawn aquaculture is a huge industry in south-east Asia worth more than A$1 billion per year," he said.

"It's very important in the Mekong Delta because it provides livelihoods for many small farmers and freshwater fish is the main source of affordable animal protein available."

"However, with population growth in these countries and disruption of fish migratory patterns because of large-scale hydroelectric projects and other developments, wild fish stocks are being depleted rapidly."

Professor Mather supervises three international PhD researchers who are examining how to improve the productivity of the freshwater aquaculture industry across the south-east Asian region.

QUT PhD researcher Dinh Hung conducted the Viet Nam government funded research into improving growth rates of the giant freshwater prawn with the Research Institute for Aquaculture No2 (RIA2) in South Viet Nam.

"They developed an improved culture strain of the giant freshwater prawn that grows 25 per cent faster after a three-year selective breeding program," Professor Mather said.

"It is a significant breakthrough. If you can shorten the production cycle, there will be more money for the farmer."

He said to develop the new prawn, three giant freshwater prawn strains from Viet Nam and Thailand were combined into a single breeding stock.

Professor Mather said researchers then took the synthetic line and picked the best families for growth rate and the best individuals within those high-performing families.

After three years, researchers developed a prawn that grew 25 per cent faster than the strain they started with.

Professor Mather said QUT PhD researchers Hyungtaek Jung from South Korea and Norainy Husin from Malaysia were using this strain to identify key genes that affected the growth rate of giant freshwater prawns.

"These genes can be used as markers to identify fast-growing individuals while they are still of small size," he said.

"If similar genetic markers also exist in other crustaceans, we may be able to use them to produce fast growing culture strains for other species as well."

The research team at QUT recently introduced giant freshwater prawn strains to Fiji as part of an Australian government-funded project to assist aquaculture development in the Pacific region.

QUT academics are now working to establish a prawn aquaculture industry in Vanuatu.

"Most of the wild fish stocks in the Asia-Pacific region are also being over-exploited," Professor Mather said.

"The future will be to source nutrition from farmed aquatic species, at least until wild stocks recover naturally or are replenished."

the Fish Site Editor

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