Valley Shrimp Farm Forced to Halt Production after 1st Case of Rare Disease

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ARROYO CITY – A rare disease is causing an Arroyo City shrimp farm to shut down.

Manuel Guerra is one of three workers left at the place. He said at least 25 of his co-workers had to be let go recently.

"There were so many losses," he said.

Guerra said shrimp production was forced to stop after the first case in the U.S. of the shrimp disease, also known as EMS or early mortality syndrome, was detected.

"It's affected about 80 percent of our production because it killed a lot of shrimp," he said.

State regulations forced the farm to throw out all the diseased shrimp and stop production, Guerra said. Production won't pick up again until March 2018.

Guerra said his focus now is getting rid of the bacteria.

"We're cleaning, eliminating the bacteria, cleaning the shrimp ponds and the wholes and cleaning all the equipment," he said.

Texas Sea Grant Cameron County Agent Tony Reisinger told CHANNEL 5 NEWS toxins in the bacteria kill the shrimp before it can get to an edible size. He added the disease attacks it's digestive system.

It's unclear what causes the bacteria, Reisinger said. It was first detected in China seven years ago and hit shrimp farms in Mexico last year.
Reisinger said he's not surprised it reached the U.S.

"More than likely (it's) because shrimp in ponds are highly concentrated," he said. "They're stressed-out and more susceptible to disease."

Currently, there's no evidence that this disease affects wild-caught shrimp or humans. Reisinger said the shrimp had to be thrown-out as a precaution.

Guerra said, economically, they're taking a hit this year in the millions.

Reisinger is encouraging folks to continue eating shrimp to avoid an even worse economic impact on the shrimp industry.

"I'm not saying don't eat farm-raised shrimp, because there's domestically produced farm-raised shrimp that are good to eat," he said.

He added between farmed and wild caught shrimp, the U.S. produces about 10 percent of the shrimp consumed throughout the country.

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