The principle investigator, Dr. Hui Gong, is the first full-time research faculty specializing in aquaculture at UOG. Dr. Gong’s expertise is shrimp nutrition, health management and molecular genetics. According to FAO (2004), the global production of farmed shrimp exceeded 1 million tons per year, representing an $18 billion dollar market.
Shrimp aquaculture heavily relies on a formulated diet, which uses fishmeal as the main protein source. Due to growing concerns over the increasing cost, unstable supply and environmental sustainability of fishmeal production, research to develop alternative, lower cost protein sources to minimize fishmeal inclusion in shrimp feed is considered necessary. This project will be a collaborative effort between University of Guam and the Shrimp Mariculture Project at Texas A&M University who will be responsible for dietary formulation and processing.
Dr. Gong’s group will estimate genetic variations of the utilization efficiency of plant proteins by different shrimp families of Penaeus vannamei, the most popular species of shrimp currently cultured worldwide. Nearly twenty families with a large genetic diversity will be evaluated using five dietary treatments representing different protein levels and percentages of marine and plant proteins.
The results of this study will be useful in exploring the potential of an innovative approach to genetic selection. Improved efficiency of utilizing plant proteins by P. vannamei will lead to a decreased dependence on marine proteins in shrimp feed formulation. This one-year study addresses NOAA research priorities involving “alternative protein based diets” and “protecting and managing the use of coastal and ocean resources”.