Price of shrimp exploding as scientists work to curb spread of bacteria

Bags of frozen black tiger shrimp at La Mer fish market
SHUYEE LEE/CJAD

A harmful new strand of bacteria that causes a disease known as Early Mortality Syndrome is seriously affecting shrimp hatcheries in Asia. The result is a worldwide shrimp shortage and a lot of unhappy diners who have to shell out more money for the pricey prawns.

According to John Meletakos, owner of La Mer fish market on René-Levesque East, prices for a two pound bag of frozen tiger shrimp cost $30 three months ago. Now they’re hovering around $42 and he expects them to rise to $46 by next week. In general, prices have shot up by 30 to 40 per cent since the end of last summer.

So far the bacteria have only infected captive shrimp, but higher prices have trickled down to all sectors of the market. Countries with high stocks of wild shrimp such as the United States, Mexico and Senegal are struggling to keep up with demand.

Scientists are working to distribute a test capable of detecting the bacteria in order to stop it from spreading around the world.

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