Simão Zacarias takes home 2020 Global Aquaculture Innovation Award

Published on
October 19, 2020

University of Stirling postdoctoral researcher Simão Zacaria has won this year’s eighth annual Global Aquaculture Innovation Award for his research on shrimp eyestalk ablation practices, the Global Aquaculture Alliance announced on 19 October.

“It is an honor to win this prestigious award, mainly as the first African to get it. This award reminds me to never give up in chasing my dreams even when they seem impossible,” said Zacharias. “I also think that this award is a direct message to the shrimp and aquaculture industry as a whole to keep adopting stronger animal welfare practices.”

Zacarias’ work has been focused the standard shrimp hatchery practice of unilateral eyestalk ablation to achieve higher egg production. Ablation has not only caught the attention of animal welfare advocates who are concerned about animal cruelty, but Zacarias notes that ablation of broodstock produces offspring that are more vulnerable to disease.

Based on evidence from research in shrimp hatcheries in Honduras and Thailand, Zacarias proved in laboratory testing that postlarvae and juveniles from non-ablated Pacific white shrimp broodstock showed higher survival rates when they were challenged with Acute Hepatopancreatic Necrosis Disease (AHPND, also known as Early Mortality Syndrome, or EMS) and White Spot Virus Disease (WSSV).

Zacarias believes that high quality, nutritious feed being used with broodstock in their pre-maturation stage can result in similar boosts in production and is a legitimate alternative to eyestalk ablation.

Zacarias beat out two other finalists – Nuseed’s omega-3 feed product Aquaterra and Prairie AquaTech’ plant-based protein alternative aquaculture feed ingredient – to take the award. Each finalist presented on the final day of the first-ever virtual Global Outlook for Aquaculture Leadership (GOAL) Conference, and attendees voted on which initiative was most innovative.

Of the 800 attendees who actively participated in GOAL 2020, about 200 voted, according to GAA.

“This year’s innovation award is a heartwarming example that breakthroughs can be driven by a single dedicated student enabled by the right collaborative opportunity. Our hats go off to Dr. Simão Zacharias for his life-changing decision to venture far from Mozambique and persevere in his goals, to Dr. David Little of University of Stirling who opened the doors and showed him the way, and to the commercial collaborators at Sea Joy in Honduras and Benchmark in Thailand, who welcomed him to use their tools,” GAA President and Founder George Chamberlain, one of five judges for the competition said.

The Global Aquaculture Innovation Award was established in 2012 to recognize individuals and companies finding new solutions to the key challenges facing aquaculture. A full list of past winners can be found on the GAA website.  

Photo courtesy of the Global Aquaculture Alliance

Reporting from Portland, Oregon

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