Pond-raised saltwater shrimp account for 25 to 30 percent of world shrimp production. Most pond production comes from countries near the equator where a long growing season allows for more than one crop of shrimp to be grown in a year.
Shrimp farming in the U.S. is concentrated in the south of Texas and in South Carolina. These farms produce about 1,000 tons of shrimp per year compared to world farm production of 712,000 tons per year. Wild-caught shrimp contribute another 1.9 million tons to world supply. As a result of worldwide production and global marketing, events in Thailand, Chile, or China can have a greater effect on shrimp prices than local circumstances. Shrimp farming is a high-risk venture that requires considerable capital and technical expertise to be successful. Here are some of the basics of shrimp farming.
As in commercial real estate, location, location, and location are the three most important considerations when selecting a site for shrimp farming. Locate a pond close to good quality brackish water (salinity of 5-30 ppt). The site should have soil with a high clay content (at least 25 percent), and should not have bedrock or hard layers or a water table within three feet of the surface.
Since shrimp ponds are constructed in coastal areas, the activity will probably be regulated by state and federal agencies. The permit process is often handled through the Corps of Engineers or state environmental agencies.
The three general strategies for shrimp farming are extensive, semi-intensive, and intensive. The strategy used dictates the pond size, stocking density, level of pond management, investment cost, and potential production.
Extensive farming uses large ponds with a low stocking density. Little management and investment are required, but the potential production is low.
The other extreme is intensive culture, using small ponds with a high stocking density. A high level of management and investment are required, but the potential production is quite large. Semi-intensive culture falls between these two extremes. Most shrimp farms in the U.S. fall in the range of semi-intensive to intensive.
The farming strategy used determines the size of the pond. Extensive farming usually requires large ponds and a lot of acreage while intensive farming is done in smaller ponds of 1 to 10 acres. Pond depth is generally four to seven feel. When building the pond, give careful thought to how the shrimp will be harvested. Bottoms should have a gentle, smooth slope toward the outflow to aid both drainage and harvest. Dikes between and around ponds should be strong enough and wide enough to accommodate heavy vehicles.
A number of different shrimp species are used in pond culture. The western white shrimp, Penaei vannamei, native to the Pacific coast of Mexico or South America, is the most commonly cultured shrimp in the United States. A recent disease problem with this species has sparked interest in other species including the northern white shrimp, Penaeus setiferus, native to the Gulf of Mexico. Since the northern white shrimp has not been used extensively in pond culture, there is much more to learn about the utility of this species.