Shrimp farming has great potential to diversify and secure income in rural Sri Lanka, but production has significantly declined in recent years due to civil conflicts, some unsustainable practices and devastating outbreaks of disease. We examined management practices affecting disease prevention and control in the Puttalam district to identify extension services outputs that could support sustainable development of Sri Lankan shrimp farming. A survey on 621 shrimp farms (603 operational and 18 nonoperational) was conducted within the Puttalam district over 42 weeks comprising a series of three-day field visits from August 2008 to October 2009, covering two consecutive shrimp crops. Fundamental deficits in disease control, management, and biosecurity practices were found. Farmers had knowledge of biosecurity but the lack of financial resources was a major impediment to improved disease control. Smallholder farmers were disproportionately constrained in their ability to enact basic biosecurity practices due to their economic status. Basic breaches in biosecurity will keep disease as the rate limiting step in this industry. Plans to support this industry must recognize the socioeconomic reality of rural Sri Lankan aquaculture.