Eyestalk ablation


The eyestalks of female shrimps are often removed (ablated) to improve reproduction

Eyestalk ablation is the removal of one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) eyestalks from a crustacean. It is routinely practiced on female shrimps (or prawns) in almost every marine shrimp maturation or reproduction facility in the world, both research and commercial. The aim of ablation under these circumstances is to stimulate the female shrimp to develop mature ovaries and spawn.[1]

Most captive conditions for shrimp cause inhibitions in females that prevent them from developing mature ovaries. Even in conditions where a given species will develop ovaries and spawn in captivity, use of eyestalk ablation increases total egg production and increases the percentage of females in a given population that will participate in reproduction. Once females have been subjected to eyestalk ablation, complete ovarian development often ensues within as little as 3 to 10 days. The practice was a major development for the commercialisation of shrimp farming in the 1970s and 80s since it enabled reliable production.[2]

The most commonly accepted theory of why eye ablation reduces this inhibition is that a gonad inhibitory hormone (GIH) is produced in the neurosecretory complexes in the eyestalk. This hormone occurs in nature in the non-breeding season and is absent or present only in low concentrations during the breeding season. The reluctance of most shrimp to routinely develop mature ovaries in captivity is a function of elevated levels of GIH, and eyestalk ablation lowers the high haemolymph titer of GIH. The effect of eyestalk ablation is not on a single hormone such as GIH, but rather affects several physiological processes.[3] Besides the GIH evidence, another hypothesis suggests that eyestalk ablation also reduces light perception intensity and thereby induces ovarian maturation. In the banana prawn (Fenneropenaeus merguiensis, syn. Penaeus merguiensis), dim light favours ovarian maturation and spawning.[4] The exact mechanism of eyestalk ablation on the ovarian maturation is not conclusive.[5]

The practice has been criticised by animal rights activists since the removal is often done without anaesthesia and the impaired vision leads to more stress for the animals.[6][7]

It has been reported that in the tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon), the eyestalks fully regenerate in less than 6 months.[8]


There are several direct and indirect effects of eye ablation in female shrimps, including;[5][9][10]

  • increases total egg production by producing more frequent spawnings, but not larger spawns
  • moult cycle duration is shorter
  • increases mortality rate by up to three times
  • deteriorates female condition
  • in some instances, produces lower hatch rate of eggs
  • leads to changes in ovarian colour
  • increases energetic demands
  • leads to eventual loss in egg quality
  • production of offsprings that are more vulnerable to diseases such as WSSV[11]


Techniques for eyestalk ablation include:[12]

  1. Pinching the eyestalk, usually half to two-thirds down the eyestalk. This method may leave an open wound.
  2. Slitting one eye with a razor blade, then crushing the eyestalk, with thumb and index fingernail, beginning one-half to two-thirds down the eyestalk and moving distally until the contents of eyes have been removed. This method, sometimes called enucleation, leaves behind the transparent exoskeleton so that clotting of haemolymph, and closure of the wound, may occur more rapidly.
  3. Cauterizing through the eyestalk with either an electrocautery device or an instrument such as a red-hot wire or forceps. If performed correctly, this method closes the wound and allows scar tissue to form more readily. A variation of this technique is to use scissors or a sharp blade to sever the eyestalk, and then to cauterize the wound.
  4. Ligation by tying off the eyestalk tightly with surgical or other thread. This method also has the advantage of immediate wound closure.


Macrobrachium americanum prawns treated with lignocaine (a local anaesthetic in mammals) prior to eyestalk ablation show less rubbing, flicking and sheltering than those not given the anaesthetic.[13]


Eyestalk ablation is currently prohibited in Europe for organic production.[12] In 2016 Seajoy, one of the major producers of premium farmed shrimp in central America, started to farm only ablation-free shrimp.[14]

Viable alternatives to the cutting include:[2][11][15]

  • giving high quality, nutritious feed to broodstock in pre-maturation stage
  • changing the sex ratio in breeding tanks from 1:1 to 1:2 (male-to-female)

Non-ablated females have lower mortality rates and produce more robust offspring thereby reducing the need for chemicals and antibiotics.[11][15]

See also


  1. ^ Uawisetwathana, Umaporn; Leelatanawit, Rungnapa; Klanchui, Amornpan; Prommoon, Juthatip; Klinbunga, Sirawut; Karoonuthaisiri, Nitsara (2011). "Insights into Eyestalk Ablation Mechanism to Induce Ovarian Maturation in the Black Tiger Shrimp". PLOS ONE. 6 (9): e24427. Bibcode:2011PLoSO...624427U. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024427. PMC 3168472. PMID 21915325.
  2. ^ a b "Stirling researchers identify viable ablation alternatives for shrimp hatcheries « Global Aquaculture Advocate". Global Aquaculture Alliance. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  3. ^ Bray, W.A.; Lawrence, A.L. (1992). Reproduction on Penaeus species in captivity. In: Fast A.W. and Lester L.J. (Eds). Marine Shrimp Culture: Principles And Practices. Developments In Aquaculture And Fisheries Science. 23. Elsevier, The Netherlands. pp. 93–170.
  4. ^ Hoang T, Lee SY, Keenan CP, Marsden GE (2002). "Ovarian maturation of the banana prawn, Penaeus merguiensis de Man under different light intensities". Aquaculture. 208 (1–2): 159–168. doi:10.1016/S0044-8486(01)00713-X.
  5. ^ a b Uawisetwathana U, et al. (2011). "Insights into eyestalk ablation mechanism to induce ovarian maturation in the black tiger shrimp". PLoS ONE. 6 (9): e24427. Bibcode:2011PLoSO...624427U. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024427. PMC 3168472. PMID 21915325.
  6. ^ "The shocking practice that shows prawn farming is as cruel as factory farming". www.animalsaustralia.org. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  7. ^ "Australian prawn farmers blindsided by animal cruelty claims". www.abc.net.au. 2017-09-08. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  8. ^ Desai, U.M.; Achuthankutty, C.T. (2000). "Complete regeneration of ablated eyestalk in penaeid prawn, Penaeus monodon" (PDF). Current Science. 79 (11): 1602–1603.
  9. ^ "Unilateral eye ablation". Retrieved November 22, 2013.
  10. ^ Magaña-Gallegos, Eden; Bautista-Bautista, Magali; González-Zuñiga, Linda M.; Arevalo, Miguel; Cuzon, Gerard; Gaxiola, Gabriela (2018-08-03). "Does unilateral eyestalk ablation affect the quality of the larvae of the pink shrimp Farfantepenaeus brasiliensis (Letreille, 1817) (Decapoda: Dendrobranchiata: Penaeidae)?". Journal of Crustacean Biology. 38 (4): Table 1. doi:10.1093/jcbiol/ruy043. ISSN 0278-0372.
  11. ^ a b c "Innovation Award 2020 finalist: Simao Zacarias' shrimp eyestalk ablation research « Global Aquaculture Advocate". Global Aquaculture Alliance. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  12. ^ a b Expert Group for Technical Advice on Organic Production, Final Report on Aquaculture (Part B) (PDF), pp. 15–16
  13. ^ Diarte-Plata, G., Sainz-Hernández, J.C., Aguiñaga-Cruz, J.A., Fierro-Coronado, J.A., Polanco-Torres, A. and Puente-Palazuelos, C. (2012). "Eyestalk ablation procedures to minimize pain in the freshwater prawn Macrobrachium americanum". Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 140 (3): 172–178. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2012.06.002.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ "Seajoy's ablation-free shrimp answers emerging welfare concern « Global Aquaculture Advocate". Global Aquaculture Alliance. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  15. ^ a b "The case against eyestalk ablation in shrimp aquaculture". thefishsite.com. Retrieved 2020-09-23.