Cawthron supports aquaculture expertise in the Pacific

16 December 2022

Researchers at Nelson’s Cawthron Institute welcomed aquaculture technicians from the Pacific Islands last month for a four-week knowledge exchange project funded through a joint Pacific Island government initiative. 

Tuaine (Tutu) Turua, from the Ministry of Marine Resources in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, and Rennie Reymond, from the Ministry of Fisheries and Mineral Resources Development in Kiribati were recently hosted at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park in Glenduan, Nelson, for 4 weeks. 

Tutu Turua says she and Rennie have backgrounds in mariculture and hatchery production of various native species of commercial and cultural interest for the Pacific communities (e.g., pearl oysters, sea-cucumbers, giant clams, seaweed, freshwater prawns).  

“The aim of our visit was to learn from Cawthron researchers’ shellfish hatchery expertise and take that knowledge back home to support our local shellfish industries. 

“We also learned about standard operating procedures and good biosecurity practices used at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park as well as New Zealand health and safety protocols, and how they might be applied in a local context at home.” 

Julien Vignier, a senior aquaculture scientist at Cawthron Institute who hosted Tutu and Rennie says the visit was funded by the Secretariat Pacific Community Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (SP FAME), which has 22 member countries throughout the Pacific Islands. 

“This project is a great example of the valuable work SPC FAME do to provide Pacific communities with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to manage their aquatic resources. Supporting the development of Pacific aquaculture is a huge part of that because it not only enables and secures a sustainable food production system but also creates economic opportunities,” Julien says. 

One specific focus of the project was to assist Tutu and Rennie in comparing alternative sources of microalgal food to standard live fresh microalgae, an essential component in marine hatcheries for successfully producing shellfish spat. 

“Growing live microalgae is expensive, skill-intensive, unreliable and difficult in remote areas of the Pacific, and having access to a preserved formulation of microalgae with a longer shelf-life and ease of storage would be a game changer for these hatcheries.” 

Image: Cawthron Institute. From left, Julien Vignier, Tuaine Turua, Jordan Elvy, Rennie Reymond and Nerelle Gundry.

Image: Cawthron Institute. Tutu and Rennie in the Cawthron Aquaculture Park labs working on their microalgae feed trial. 

Julien Vignier

Julien Vignier

Aquaculture Scientist

Julien says Cawthron researchers assisted Tutu and Rennie to conduct a two-week long replicated trial where they tested different commercially available freeze-dried and preserved microalgae against a routine hatchery-grown live microalgae to feed larvae of Greenshell mussels. 

“We found that mussel larvae preferred the live microalgae and grew better than when fed the preserved formulations. However, this scoping trial showed us that the freeze-dried algae product was easy to prepare and that larvae were able to ingest it. The use of freeze-dried microalgae holds promise provided further refinement around feeding regime and delivery modes are worked out.”   

“This project recognises Cawthron’s highly valued expertise in the fields of shellfish hatchery production, microalgal production and bivalve nutrition. This training opportunity further strengthens an enduring collaboration between SPC, the Pacific Island communities and Cawthron that will benefit the development of aquaculture for local food production in the Pacific region.” 

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