Wed, Nov 06, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Ray of hope for abalone industry

By Du Yu 杜宇

The third problem is that the establishment of relevant institutions has not been effective. The government invested a hefty NT$1.74 billion (US$59.14 million) to establish the Aquatic Genetic Resource Bank, with most of the money being spent on buildings and equipment. The resource bank’s purpose is to develop key technology related to aquatic product larvae and the prevention of diseases in important cultivated organisms.

However, the way the recovery in abalone farming has been brought about shows that the resource bank has not set up a database of Taiwan’s autochthonous abalone species or actively engaged in systematic breeding research. Consequently, it was unable to provide the genetic resources and technical support that abalone farmers needed, and producers had to go to Japan to find mates for their abalones. This has led to questions about the usefulness of the resource bank.

The fourth problem is a widespread tendency to exaggerate. Whereas science stresses the need for proof, government departments and academia often prefer to engage in hyperbole.

For example, although some results have indeed been achieved with regard to disease prevention in giant tiger prawns, abalones and groupers, the development of commercial vaccines for fish and prawns, the breeding of cold-resistant and disease-resistant fish and shellfish, super-intensive production systems and so on, these achievements have been exaggerated and producers have ended up being very disappointed.

Farmers who were asked to recount the process of recovery in abalone cultivation have drawn attention to this kind of behavior. They say that industry, government and academia have come up with all kinds of weird and wonderful ideas about pathogens involved in the die-off and possible solutions, but none of them have been of any great use.

These officials are either concerned with reporting back on whatever government plan they have on hand, or take the opportunity to talk about some other issue, such as saying that the problem was caused by changes in algal growth brought about by global warming, or that abalone farmers should use deep-sea water. If farm production in Taiwan is to go forward, it will be necessary to correct this kind of counterproductive behavior.

The fifth and final issue is that viruses have become a great way for the government to evade its responsibility. When there is a big die-off of cultivated organisms, government officials and people in charge of experimental research institutes often blame it on viruses and say there is no medicine available to counter it, just like SARS in humans. They sometimes add that the virus was brought over by smuggling from China, and that the government is not to blame because there is too much smuggling going on for government officials to stop it.

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