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Giant Prawn returns to Thailand, courtesy AIT

Nearly four decades after the inaugural Giant Prawn Conference was first organized in Bangkok in 1980, the event returned to Thailand at the lush green campus of the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).

“Thailand is a natural home for this Conference,” AIT President Prof. Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai remarked as he welcomed 150 delegates from
​34 countries. The story of Thailand’s association with freshwater prawn farming dates back to the trials initiated by Thailand’s Department of Fisheries in 1956, whose success spawned a global interest in freshwater prawn. Sustainability, traditional dietary habits, and trade are factors that helped freshwater prawn farming gain acceptability in Thailand.

The key organizer of Giant Prawn in 1980 was Michael New, Chairman of Aquaculture without Frontiers and former President of the World Aquaculture Society. Led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Thailand’s Department of Fisheries, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the event aimed at expanding freshwater prawn farming.

For the 2017 edition, he teamed up with Dr. Krishna R Salin of AIT. Through his address to the participants, which was read on his behalf by Dr. Salin, Michael traced the contours of freshwater prawn farming. Providing an update on global farmed freshwater prawn production, he enumerated the causes behind the decline in interest.

Speaking on behalf of shrimp farmers was Mr. Pinyo Kiatpinyo, Advisor to National Farmers Council, Thailand, who regretted that Giant Prawn was “not a giant any more as it has started disappearing from our tables.” He solicited expert opinion from the Conference participants hoping that their recommendations would help farmers in the region. 

Dr. Cherdsak Virapat, Director General, Network of Aquaculture Centers in Asia Pacific (NACA), Bangkok
​and Mr. Sontipun Pasugdee, Director of the Inland Aquaculture Research and Development Division of Thai Dept. of Fisheries, ​delivered the opening remarks at the event, while Uthairat Na-Nakorn spoke on “Research and development work and current status of Macrobrachium farming in Thailand.” They mentioned that Thailand was once a leading producer, but its position has since then declined as it produces only about 10 per cent of the global supply. China is the global leader today followed by Bangladesh, and 53 countries have reported freshwater prawn farming.

The four-day conference also saw experts present the status in their respective countries. C. Mohanakumaran Nair spoke about the “Status of Macrobrachium farming in India,” while Tran Ngoc Hai presented the “Status of Macrobrachium farming in Vietnam and prospects for further development” in Viet Nam, and Yang Guoliang elaborated on “Small-scale farming of M. nipponense and M. rosenbergii in China. “

The four-day event was preceded by a three-day training on “Advances in Hatchery Production of freshwater prawns” 17-19 March 2017.