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Does Indonesian shrimp import ban make sense?
Thursday,5 January,2012 07:50:57
Recently, shrimp that were farmed in Malaysia and determined to be PCR positive for the virus that causes White Spot (WSSV) were refused entry into Indonesia. While the refusal, in of itself is not necessarily a big deal - food products are rejected all of the time for a variety of reasons - typically those that can impact human health, this sets a very bad precedent. The rejection of shrimp that are carrying a virus that already is endemic in Indonesia is not necessarily a good idea, if it is even legal. I am however, not a lawyer, and leave it up to those with this lean to figure things like this out.
In my opinion, the presence of this virus is not a legitimate reason for this rejection. It is well known that shrimp can carry this and other viruses and not display any symptoms. It is also widely known that the extreme sensitivity of PCR can readily identify shrimp as carriers even though the viral loads are not necessarily consistent with the development of disease. It is also known that animals that are in fact carriers can be PCR negative.
If it became routine to reject shrimp for importation that were PCR positive for WSSV, I would expect that there would be a tremendous (negative) impact on shrimp farming in general with some areas being hurt much more than others. In fact I think that this has opened a can of worms. It would be justifiable for shrimp exported from Indonesia to be rejected because they are carrying IMNV. Given the very limited geographic range of this virus to date, banning imports of shrimp from areas that are endemic for this virus would be a reasonable precaution to take.
Since the shrimp are for human consumption the virus poses no risk to shrimp, short of deliberately feeding it to non-infected shrimp. Since WSSV is endemic in Indonesia, it makes no sense to limit its entry as part of an attempt to control the virus. It is well known that once the virus is established it can be found in hundreds of potential vectors. The only possible justification might be if the shrimp were to be processed further and were done so under conditions that were not conducive to minimizing the potential of the virus to spread.
One could see a scenario developing where the virus could infect animals in the wild and further the spread through carriers. Unfortunately the ban of WSSV positive shrimp may have set a bad precedent. Given the deadly nature of IMNV it would not be surprising to see shrimp from Indonesia being banned for import into countries that do not already have this virus.