With increasing demand for seafood, aquaculture can be a sustainable food source with many social, environmental, and economic benefits. NOAA aquaculture research in the Northeast focuses on farming finfish, shellfish, and sea vegetables. Marine aquaculture is a resource-efficient method of increasing and diversifying U.S. seafood production. It can expand and stabilize the U.S. seafood supply in the face of environmental change and economic uncertainty. Currently, U.S. aquaculture represents 21 percent of the total national seafood production by value. Aquaculture is also a powerful tool that supports species and habitat restoration. Our scientists at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center work with partners around the globe to provide essential information for the public, industry, and policymakers. Here are six aquaculture collaborations to keep your eye on in 2022.
1. The Northeast Oyster Breeding Center
The Northeast Oyster Breeding Center is located at the NOAA Milford Laboratory and the University of Rhode Island. It is a new effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NOAA Fisheries. This collaboration includes cutting-edge hatchery technology. It represents an increased commitment by the United States to breed oyster lines that are disease resistant, resilient to climate change, and perform well in different oyster growing regions. Our Milford Laboratory is currently assembling a Cawthron Ultra Density Larval System, affectionately called CUDLS. This will allow scientists to produce a large number of shellfish genetic families simultaneously in a smaller footprint, requiring only about one-fifth of the space of a traditional system. The system will be used for family-based breeding of oysters guided by USDA Agricultural Research Service geneticists and the Eastern Oyster Breeding Consortium. The consortium is a group of universities and government agencies. It received a 5-year grant in 2019 to develop tools for selective oyster breeding with strong support from commercial partners.
2. OY15 Probiotic Bacteria for Shellfish Hatcheries
Our Milford Laboratory is collaborating with public and private industry partners to commercialize a probiotic, or beneficial bacteria, that protects oyster larvae in hatcheries from disease. Our scientists discovered and developed a probiotic bacterial strain called OY15, a benign bacterial strain isolated from the digestive glands of oysters. It provides an environmentally friendly way to manage bacterial shellfish pathogens in hatcheries. This naturally occurring bacterium provides disease resistance to Eastern oyster larvae, improving survival by 20 to 35 percent when challenged with a known larval shellfish pathogen. Prospective Research, a private biotech firm in Massachusetts, has partnered with our Milford Lab, manufacturing a freeze-dried powder formulation of OY15. Milford Lab successfully beta-tested this new formulation of OY15 on Eastern oyster larvae in collaboration with public and private shellfish production hatcheries. They are now conducting trials with several companies growing both Eastern and Pacific oysters, including Hawaiian Shellfish Oyster Hatchery and Cartron Point Oyster Hatchery in Ireland.
- An Irish Oyster Farmer and a CEO of an Aquaculture Research Company Discuss the Future of Probiotics
- Current Research at the Milford Lab
3. Ocean Acidification and Aquaculture
Coastal industries including aquaculture feel the impacts of ocean acidification directly. With carbon dioxide emissions on the rise, aquaculture operations need to adapt to changes in ocean chemistry. Focusing on the coasts of New England and Nova Scotia, the Northeast Coastal Acidification Network (NECAN), including our James J. Howard and Milford Labs, works with national and international partners to understand how ocean acidification will affect aquaculture. They use their diverse expertise to identify future needs for sustainable aquaculture.
4. Northeast Finfish Aquaculture
Manna Fish Farms is building a recirculating aquaculture system hatchery in Southampton, New York, to supply juvenile fish to stock ocean-based net pens. Manna, Stonybrook University, and our science center are collaborating to investigate new techniques for chemical filtration of ammonia using alternative activated media made from dried agricultural wastes. They plan to test the performance of this new filtration method at the center’s James J. Howard Laboratory by running side by side with more conventional techniques.
5. The Future of Seaweed Aquaculture in the United States
Food security, or the accessibility of food, is a growing concern as the population rises. Seaweed aquaculture plays an important part in the health of our ocean as well as our food security. Our James J. Howard Laboratory works with experts to review all the benefits of seaweed aquaculture. Each group highlights a different use of seaweed and its value to our planet. Our partners include:
- Darling Marine Center
- University of Connecticut
- University of Maine
- University of New England
- Forster Consulting
- Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
6. Fish Metabolism in Response to Climate Change
Partnering with Rutgers University and University of South Florida, our James J. Howard Laboratory studies how climate change affects fish metabolism, or growth. Scientists are using black sea bass and spiny dogfish as model species to look at how changing temperature affects oxygen use. This information helps us understand how changing temperatures affect fish growth, and to determine ocean areas that may be suitable for aquaculture operations.