CHINATOWN Saipan — Saipan may well become known in Asia as a shrimp center if one businessman has his way.

The Northern Mariana Islands now has a first-ever shrimp hatchery and farm set up to produce approximately 20 tons of shrimps a year for the domestic market. The farm will also export hatchlings to Asian countries and produce a brood stock for local and foreign aquaculturists venturing into the business.

Anthony Pellegrino who owns the farm said planning started in December 2004 with help from the Northern Marianas College’s Community Research Extension and Educational Services the University of Guam’s aquaculture division and the Oceanic Institute of Hawaii.

“Our objective is to grow shrimps for consumption raise post-larvae (hatchlings) for export around the world and grow brood stock (male and female shrimps for mating) ” he told the Journal during a visit to his two-acre farm.

Shrimp farming Pellegrino said is an industry that needs to be cultivated. He said Saipan is an ideal place for a shrimp farm because of the weather. “I wish I learned about it 20 years ago. There’s a market for it. It is lucrative ” he said.

With the NMI economy in a slump due to a dip in tourism activities and reduced activities in the garment sector and local leaders planning to go abroad to convince prospective investors officials said the shrimp farming industry could help address some of the islands’ financial woes as it is seen to help generate revenues for the government and promote employment.

Pellegrino said they bought the hatchlings from University of Guam and cultivated them until they were ready for harvest.

The first batch of 15 000 hatchlings arrived in February. Half the total number was harvested in June. The next batch of another 15 000 arrived in July of which 70% was harvested in November. Pellegrino said a third batch of 40 000 came in also in November from which the farm expect to harvest about 85%.

The variety is a white shrimp belonging to the penaeus vannemei species which are specific pathogen free and immune to about six viruses and therefore healthier.

Learning as the farm went along Pellegrino said the farm then opened its own hatchery for the brood stock’s hatchlings with a view to make the farm self-sufficient in the coming months and gradually reduce importation of hatchlings from Guam. “We hope to have our own supply (of hatchlings) within three to five months. We move fast ” he said.

Harvested shrimps were sold individually at $8 a pound or for about 25 pieces. The NMI imports frozen shrimps that sell at an average of $7 a box containing around 16 pieces.

Pellegrino said people who heard about his shrimp farm are lining up for the next harvest and taking advance orders.

He said they haven’t approached the restaurants and hotels. “We don’t have a large enough supply yet. We plan to have at least one or more harvests a month…approximately 20 tons of shrimps a year by this time next year ” Pellegrino said.

Pellegrino’s shrimp farm is registered as Marianas Sweet Shrimp produced by Saipan Aquaculture Co. Inc. He said he has invested more than $200 000 to this company.

Pellegrino has been living on Saipan since January 1984. His first business venture was the building of an 85-foot catamaran that he still operates as a dinner cruise boat for tourists.

Pellegrino also runs Sea Ventures Inc. a company which has eight boats for tourism-related activities; the Saipan Ice and Water Co. which produces drinking water and ice for sale; Hafa Dai Co. a distributor of cleaning products; and the Marine Revitalization Corp. a marina in Saipan’s Outer Cove in Garapan. MBJ