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Sharing Aquaculture Science Across Borders: 50 Years of American-Japanese Collaboration

May 14, 2024

U.S. and Japanese scientists build on a legacy of collaboration to advance sustainable ocean farming.

UJNR panel sitting at a table with Dr. Janet Whaley of NOAA at the head, Japanese colleagues seated around the table.

Food is a powerful means of sharing culture, and the United States and Japan share a love of delicious and sustainable farmed seafood. Since 1971, NOAA Fisheries and the Japanese Fisheries Research and Education Agency have collaborated through the U.S.-Japan Natural Resources Aquaculture Panel. 

The panel’s principal aims are to cooperatively:

  • Develop and conserve natural resources
  • Share information and results of research activities
  • Provide a continuing forum for applied science and technology cooperation

"The two countries, Japan and the United States, have very different cultural backgrounds and for this very reason we can work together to solve problems from different perspectives, producing results that cannot be achieved in one country,” said Dr. Hideaki Aono, former Japan Panel Chair (2019–2024). “Since there has been more than 50 years of research exchange between two countries, the strong sense of trust facilitates sharing knowledge and technology."

Science and Technology Exchange

The panel has evolved to adapt to emerging challenges and opportunities. NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture sponsors this bilateral in collaboration with aquaculture scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and national Sea Grant programs. The panel holds annual meetings where scientists share research results, new technology, and approaches for sustainable aquaculture.

Group photo of UJNR attendees outside of the L.L. Bean store in Main; group of people posed in front of giant boot with store behind.
Visit to L.L.Bean Flagship store in Freeport, Maine. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Over the years, American and Japanese aquaculture experts have collaborated on:

  • Laboratory and field research
  • Exchanges of samples for research
  • Synthesizing hard-to-get data in the archives of each nation
  • Gathering statistics to chart the growth of the aquaculture industries in both the United States and Japan

“This is one of those few opportunities where 1 + 1 = way more than 2,”  said Dr. Mike Rust, former U.S. Panel Chair (2010–2022). “Scientists from both countries get more than they give when they find researchers in the other country working on similar problems and visit their labs. The chance to visit research, educational, and industry infrastructure in both countries in the company of the experts who work there is a uniquely valuable opportunity.”

Panel meetings allow experts to tour aquaculture facilities in the United States and Japan. They identify common areas of research and knowledge gaps, share insights and innovations, and foster working relationships between scientists. 

One such collaboration helped create a workshop on Seriola fish farming, held biennially at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. This workshop has grown over the years. At the fourth workshop, in January 2024, more than 100 stakeholders from 14 different countries participated to discuss topics related to Seriola aquaculture.

2023 Meeting in Maine

UJNR attendees visit the University of Maine Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research
Visit to the University of Maine Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

The most recent meeting in this long scientific legacy was the 2023 meeting in Freeport, Maine. The theme was “Control and Management of Aquaculture Disease.” It focused on current and emerging threats to the aquaculture industry from disease—the third and final annual meeting on this theme. 

U.S. and Japanese researchers presented on timely topics such as disease management for various shellfish, fish, and seaweed species. Sharing management and science in this open way allows for new information sharing and collaboration opportunities.

Over the next 3 years (2024–2026), the focus will shift to “A New Era for Sustainable Aquaculture.” Researchers will explore topics such as new management practices, improved feeds, and selective breeding for climate resilience. They will also examine implementing new technologies like robotics and genomics for aquaculture management.

Photo of hands holding juvenile scallops raised at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center., dock and water in background with hands in foreground
Juvenile scallops raised at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

These in-person events bring researchers together, facilitating partnerships for innovative science across borders. As our climate changes, aquaculture isn’t just part of the United State’s strategy for adaptation—it has global implications. 

Bringing aquaculture researchers from the United States and Japan together allows us to maximize our capacities for developing global climate change solutions for the fastest-growing food sector in the world.

“The ability to investigate new avenues of thought thanks to this cultural and professional exchange has taught us so much,” said Dr. Janet Whaley, current U.S. Panel Chair. “We have so much more to learn, and to share, from this long-standing bilateral collaboration.”

Last updated by Office of Aquaculture on May 14, 2024