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Funding To Advance Marine Aquaculture Research

US - $3.7 million funding has been approved by the Senate for aquaculture studies at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Mississippi.

The federal money will support science that underpins the development of marine aquaculture,” said William Hawkins, director and professor at the research laboratory that operates under the University of Southern Mississippi.

“We will do two things with it,” he told The Mississippi Press. “We will support and enhance ongoing studies on key species like spotted sea trout and red snapper and it will allow us to things that specifically bring these species to commercialization.”

Mr Hawkins said the need for marine aquaculture research in the United States is critical. Imported seafood “is a major element of our balance of trade.”

Seafood imports rank behind petroleum and automobiles as part of the nation’s trade deficit, he said.

Thomas McIlwain, project director at GCRL, said the nation’s wild catch is at its maximum point. “One of the key issues is that almost 20 years ago wild capture fisheries capped out.

We are not harvesting from the wild any more fish than we did 20 years ago.”

The only way the demand for seafood can be met is through aquaculture, said Mr Hawkins.

“This is an industry that only really began in the 1970s and only hit stride less than 10 years ago.”

The funding was announced by Senator Thad Cochran, R-Jackson, as part of the $1.1 trillion spending bill approved and sent to President Barrack Obama.

Mr Hawkins said the money is a significant development for the facility, which operates research and academic programmes at the Ocean Springs and Cedar Point.

The money was awarded for the development and commercialisation of new aquaculture technology at the Cedar Point site.

Jeffrey Lotz, professor and chair of coastal sciences at the laboratory, said marine fish present difficult reproductive and larvae issues. Reproductive and feeding studies are needed, he said.

Mr Hawkins said: "What we are focusing on is hatchery technology. Without supplies of fingerlings nobody can more forward.”

About $40 million in buildings have been constructed or are planned at Cedar Point, said Hawkins. The research laboratory is viewed as “at least a regional center” and is becoming a national player in marine aquaculture research, he said.

Mr McIlwain said Cedar Point allows a closed system in which water is recirculated. Shrimp tanks at the facility have used the same water for three years, he said.

A plan for the $3.7 million must be submitted to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, he said.

Mr Hawkins said the money will pay for more research scientists and graduate students, but probably won’t mean additional full-time staff, concludes the report in The Mississippi Press.

the Fish Site Editor

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