India is the second largest fish producer in the world with a total production of 13.7 million metric tonnes in 2018-19 providing meaningful employment to 14 million people across the value chain in harvesting, processing packaging, and distribution. During 2019-20, India exported 12.89 lakh MT of seafood worth US$6.68 Billion. The commodity basket of Indian fishery export is highly diversified and bulk of the exports is traded in the frozen form.

Frozen shrimp is the largest exported item, both in terms of quantity and value during the last decade. India exported 6.52 lakh MT of frozen shrimp worth US$4889.12 million during 2019-20. Frozen shrimp constitute 50.58% in quantity and 73.21% in terms of total USD earnings. Largest market for Indian frozen shrimp is USA followed by South East Asia, European Union, China, Japan and Middle East countries. Farmed L.vannamei shrimp is the single largest contributor for the seafood export basked by contributing 5.12 lakh MT.

Over the past few years, frequent recalls of import rejections by importing countries have increased consumer awareness on health hazards antibiotics residue and pharmacologically active substances present in the seafood, resulted in great deal of public concern particularly in the developed countries where food safety concerns are dealt at the Governmental level.

Regulations on Antibiotic use in Aquaculture: Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), Government of India has notified MRLs of antibiotics and heavy metals in the marine products exported (Notification SO 792 (E) dated Aug 17, 2001). As per the MOCI notification five antibiotics viz chloramphenicol, furazolidone, neomycin, nalidixic acid and sulphamethaxazole are banned and no residues should be left in the animal body.

There are nine substances included of Regulation 2377/90/EEC that may not be used in food producing species because no safe level of residue can be determined: chloramphenicol, chloroform, chlorpromazine, colchicine, dapsone, dimetridazole, metronidazole, nitrofurans (including furazolidone) and ronidazole. The presence of such substance residues (including metabolites) is prima facie evidence of the use of prohibited substances in a food animal species.

Importance of Certification: Certification of hatcheries for production of antibiotic free seed has emerged as one of the main interventions to free Indian aquaculture from the use of antibiotics. This is also seen as a tool to improve consumer confidence.

Quality Certifications issued by international bodies are expensive and beyond the reach of small and marginal producers. In this circumstance, MPEDA formulated a scheme for Certification of Hatcheries for production of antibiotic free seeds in consultation with Farmer representatives, Hatchery representatives, Fisheries research institutions, EIA and CAA.

Apart from National Residue Control Programme (NRCP) and Pre Harvest Test (PHT) initiatives implemented by MPEDA, development of Certification in Aquaculture which is named as ‘SHAPHARI’ meaning superior quality of fishery product suitable for human consumption is another milestone initiative to address the above issue on food security.

Stake holder meetings were conducted in association with Society of Aquaculture Professionals (SAP) in shrimp farming areas in Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh during 2018-19 to find a lasting solution to issues related to food security aspects in aquaculture production.  One of the decisions of the stakeholder consultations was to start a certification scheme for export oriented aquaculture production systems that include both hatcheries and farms.  Farmers were also concerned on the quality of seeds supplied by the hatcheries.

Trial production on antibiotic free seed production protocol:  A trial study was taken up by MPEDA-RD-Vijayawada during 2019 for the production of Antibiotic free and disease free shrimp PL production using application of bacteriophage and probiotics.  RD-Vijayawada conducted a total of three trials by participating 5 hatcheries in different locations.

The study clearly demonstrated that the seed production with bacteriophage and probiotic protocol is possible and the survival rate can be increased substantially by standardizing the application rates and by gaining more experience in the antibiotic free operations.