The shrimp are unusually pretty. The Periclimenella agatti (named after Lakshadweep’s Agatti Island and discovered in December 2018) is a translucent pale green with scattered black dots, and about 4 cm long. The Urocaridella arabianensis (named for the Arabian Sea and discovered in August 2019) is also translucent, with red and whitish splotches scattered artistically across its 5-cm frame. These were the species not known before. The other two are
the Thor hainanensis (brownish, with milky blotches; first discovered in China in 2014) and the Lysmata hochi (semi-translucent with red bands and patches; first discovered in Panama in 2008). “The discovery of the new ornamental
shrimp species was a result of exploratory surveys in the Lakshadweep coral reefs,” says Kuldeep Kumar Lal, director of the ICAR-NBFGR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research – National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources).
Depending on perceived attractiveness and rarity, ornamental fish can fetch up to Rs 7,500 a piece. The recent discoveries. have made news in scientific circles and in Lakshadweep, work has begun to make the
most of all four finds. In an island region where the economy depends almost entirely on tourism, tuna fishing and coconuts, the four new species could boost incomes. “Our effort is to establish captive breeding of ornamental shrimp
that are indigenous to India,” says Lal.
In all, 45 women and 5 men from Agatti have been trained, in 7 small batches, to rear the shrimp. “Currently, the species reared is Thor hainanensis, also known as sexy shrimp. This species has high demand
in the ornamental trade,” says project member Sheena Jose, a student at NBFGR.
Seven of these trainees have established a backyard rearing unit, with help from the ICAR-NBFGR, and their first batch of 100 shrimp netted Rs 21,000 on the domestic market last month.
ICAR-NBFGR plans to train about 500 more breeders across the Lakshadweep islands, with an aim of 10,000 ornamental shrimp reared and sold by end-2022. “A module on ornamental shrimp rearing will also be launched,” Lal says, “so it can be adopted across our country.”