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Donald Lightner with a family of shrimp farmers affected by EMS in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. 

Donald Lightner named Aquaculture Person of the Year

IntraFish Media's Fish Farming International names veteran shrimp pathologist its Aquaculture Person of the Year 2013 for his unrivalled work on EMS.


Fish Farming International and IntraFish Media have awarded Dr. Donald Lightner, University of Arizona, with the title Aquaculture Person of the Year, 2013, for his outstanding work in the world shrimp industry.

A veteran of the shrimp aquaculture research sector, Donald Lightner became somewhat of an industry celebrity this year when he brought early mortality syndrome (EMS) to the attention of the world seafood industry. His work in diagnostics, testing, cause and breeding before and since is helping the shrimp sector and all those associated with it back on to firmer footing and giving an industry suffering a $1 billion crisis a light at the end of the tunnel.

While early mortality syndrome appeared to much of the industry as a sudden catastrophe, Donald Lightner and his team at the University of Arizona had been busy for three years, researching and diagnosing exactly what it was that had been wiping out shrimp production across China, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, Lightner tells Fish Farming International in our exclusive indepth interview this month.

A few months later it was Lightner and his team who made the discovery the pathogen was caused by bacteria and they have since been working on a molecular test, which they hope to put the finishing touches to in the next month or so.

“We’ll hopefully have a PCR assay that will be sensitive enough to distinguish infected animals from those that are normal -- something besides histology, which is extremely slow,” he tells FFI.

Indeed, should all go to plan, Lightner’s test should take only 45 minutes to assess the EMS-status of a shrimp, as opposed to three to four days in the current situation -- making a huge and potentially business saving difference to shrimp farmers everywhere.

Part of Lightner’s future work will be in testing shrimp families as to their resistance against EMS and a new facility has been set up to help him and his team carry this out.

And Lightner is convinced the industry is sustainable and that the future will paint a better picture -- maybe even the very near future.

“We’ll figure out EMS and figure some ways to work around it,” he tells FFI. “The industry will have a blip in its production for a year or two, then it will pick up, if not keep on growing.”

Read the full interview with Donald Lightner, Aquaculture Person of the Year in this month's issue of Fish Farming International or subscribe here.


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