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6 Cool Northeast Aquaculture Science Collaborations to Follow

November 05, 2021

Six aquaculture collaborations and partnerships helping to solve tomorrow’s aquaculture challenges like disease, ocean acidification, and climate change.

Collage of six photos. Three photos are of oysters, mussels, and sugar kelp being farmed. Three photos are of oysters, mussels, and kelp served as seafood. “Six Cool Northeast Aquaculture Science Collaborations to Follow”

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

Large metal structure with holders for clear acrylic cones. Two cones are shown in the holders and valves for the seawater system are visible.
This pilot-scale Cawthron Ultra Density Larval System rack holds up to 56 individual 2.5-litre acrylic cones.

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.

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2. OY15 Probiotic Bacteria for Shellfish Hatcheries

Female scientist stands in front of fume hood holding a test tube at the Milford Lab.
Microbiologist Diane Kapareiko at the Milford Lab

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.

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Two female lab technicians weigh and measure young oysters, and one of them records the measurements on a laptop computer with a lab setting in the background.
Milford Lab Technicians Anna Alvarado and Erin Cuyler measure and weigh oysters as part of an ocean acidification experiment.

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.

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4. Northeast Finfish Aquaculture

Three light blue, circular tanks align at the center of the photo.  Plastic pipes carry seawater from the ceiling and are attached to the inside of each of the circular tanks. Rectangular LED lights outline the tanks with the lights on the right hanging on the wall, and those to the left hanging from a metal structure secured to the ceiling.
An aerial view of the new recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) at our James J. Howard Lab. This image features the three main tanks, seawater plumbing, and adjustable LED lights on either side. This lab will be used to study sustainable aquaculture techniques. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Veronica Malabanan Lucchese

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.

A black pen of fish sits between horizontal two ropes. From these ropes are vertical strings of mussels (on the ends) and seaweed (in the center). A blue arrow with the word “Feed” in white lettering curves and points downward into the top of the pen. Two arrows with the acronyms “POM” and “DIN” white lettering point out from underneath the pen. The “POM” arrow points to the mussels and the “DIN” arrow points to the seaweed on the left hand rope.
An enclosure called a ‘pen’ holds fish in the ocean. The ropes on the sides of the pen also house strings of mussels and seaweed. Leftover food and waste from the pen release into the water as particulate organic matter (POM) and dissolved inorganic nutrients (DIN) which are taken up by the mussels and seaweed. This system is a sustainable way to provide food for humans and animals as well as recycle waste.

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:

6. Fish Metabolism in Response to Climate Change

The aerial view of a very dark spiny dogfish inside a plexiglass respirometry chamber. The chamber is closed and sealed to keep the fish inside. It is in a round, light blue tank with many wires and tubes connected to the chamber.
This seawater laboratory consists of large insulated seawater tanks filled with water of specific temperatures. Inside these tanks are test chambers, containing one fish each, that are designed to measure how much oxygen is used by the fish over a couple of hours at that specific temperature. Here is a spiny dogfish in a test chamber.

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.

For more information, please contact Kristen Jabanoski and Veronica Lucchese.

Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on January 06, 2022