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May 28, 2001

Shrimp farm seeks to isolate dangerous virus

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It is poised to become Belize’s largest export, but investors in the farmed shrimp industry are expressing a measure of concern tonight over the appearance of a virus at one facility near Belize City. A release from the Belize Agricultural Heath Authority, BAHA, reports that the Nova Shrimp operation near Ladyville has been placed under quarantine following the discovery of an outbreak of the Taura virus in several of Nova’s ponds. Viruses such as Taura can seriously effect the entire industry if allowed to spread. Jim Hyde, Nova’s managing director, told News 5 that Nova placed itself under quarantine from last Tuesday after discovering signs of the virus in three ponds. Since that time they have totally isolated the area, making sure that nothing moves in and out. The virus can be spread through the sale and movement of shrimp larvae or contamination by equipment or other material that moves from one farm to another. Birds or even people can also transmit the disease, which six years ago required the temporary shutdown of the entire industry. Experts tell News 5 that since that time Belizean shrimp farmers have developed effective methods of dealing with outbreaks of disease and while there is always cause for concern, the consensus is this recent episode will be very limited in scope. On Wednesday the Belize Shrimp Growers Association will meet to review the situation. There are eleven shrimp farms operating in Belize, with six more licensed to open in the future. Last year the industry earned forty-four point seven million dollars in export revenue.

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