UK aquaculture specialists laud New Zealand aquaculture advances

The New Zealand mussel industry seems more advanced compared to the EU, according to a UK mission’s report on New Zealand aquaculture. 

A six-member mission consisting of specialists from leading UK-based aquaculture research institutes had visited New Zealand in September last year to explore more research collaborations between the two countries in the aquaculture space.

The mission saw discussions with scientists from the Cawthron Institute, SpatNZ, NIWA, University of Auckland, and seafood companies such as Sanford Ltd and OceaNZ Blue Ltd.

Stefano Carboni of The Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling said New Zealand’s mussel industry in particular seemed considerably more advanced, compared to the EU, both in farming methods and practices, industry consolidation and capacity for investment.

“The main distinctive feature of this industry is the recently acquired possibility to purchase mussel seeds from a commercial hatchery (SpatNZ), which opens up significant opportunities for species domestication, related improvement of the animals’ most important commercial traits and relative independence from unreliable natural spat falls,” Carboni said.

For Tim Bean of The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), UK, evident throughout the aquaculture meeting in New Zealand was the “overriding theme that the aquaculture industry was of key importance to New Zealand and is viewed by government as a positive industry with potentially huge benefits for the nation”.

“The most staggering thing for me was perhaps realisation that the aquaculture science in New Zealand always aims to have direct benefit to industry.

“This seems to be in contrast to the UK, where the priority for attaining research funding is often scientific novelty rather than industrial application.

“This difference in these overall themes will allow the two nations to complement each other’s work, with clear potential for sharing information...” Bean said.

John Bignell of Cefas, UK, identified two areas of collaboration with the Cawthron Institute and SpatNZ – developing high performance, resilient mussels that cope well with disease, and building expertise in diagnosing new diseases that could have serious, adverse effects on the aquaculture industry. 

Cefas’ experience in implementing environmental monitoring programs could offer a simple, low cost method to measure stress in certain selectively bred Greenshell mussel families, Bignell said. 

“Cawthron have successfully bred distinct families of Greenshell mussels representing a broad spectrum of performance (growth). 

“It is important to understand whether the absolute highest performing mussels are efficient feeders and therefore able to perform equally well in locations with low food concentration,” Bignell said.

Hervé Migaud, Director of Research, Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling said there was a clear opportunity for knowledge exchange in both directions.

“From NZ to UK especially on mussel hatchery and technology, and upscaling, including species biology, genetics and deployment; from UK to NZ on marine fish breeding, on growing as well as salmon sustainability.”