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Sturgeon Research Centre Receives Cash Infusion

CANADA - The final financial piece of Vancouver Island University's new International Centre for Sturgeon Studies fell into place Monday with a $717,700 federal grant.

Andrew Saxton, MP for North Vancouver and a representative for Western Economic Diversification Canada, visited the $5.25-million facility, which is scheduled to have its grand opening on 3 October, to make the announcement, reports Canada.com.

The funding will be used to equip the research facility with an electrical generator, freshwater recirculation system, furniture and other required components.

Research scientists and industry representatives on hand for the funding announcement said the money will be well spent on working toward making sturgeon aquaculture a major economic driver for the province.

"Sturgeon hold the potential to be a huge aquaculture species for the region, particularly with the growing markets in China," said Steve Atkinson, president of the sturgeon-farming company Taste of B.C.

"Within 10 years, I see a huge increase in the sturgeon caviar industry and a great potential for sturgeon meat. This facility is a testimony of what the industry can do."

The ICSS, which was funded by a variety of government grants, is the latest addition to VIU's ambitious and expanding fisheries and aquaculture department.

The new state-of-the-art, 13,000 square-foot facility will build upon the ongoing work of VIU's Centre for Shellfish Research, developed in 2001 to create healthy and vibrant coastal communities in the province through the development of sustainable aquaculture projects.

The sturgeon centre will focus on working with the industry and other parties to develop the best land-based, closed-containment freshwater systems for sturgeon farming in B.C to make the industry as responsible and environmentally sound as it can be.

With the United Nations' food and agriculture organisation reporting that almost 50 per cent of all the world's seafood currently coming from aquaculture operations, and with projections for it to surpass catch-fisheries in the near future, the need for aquaculture projects to fill the evergrowing international need for protein be properly researched and developed is being increasingly recognised.

The white sturgeon, indigenous to B.C. with a concentration in the Fraser River, is one of the largest freshwater fish in North America that can reach 800 kilograms in weight and grow six metres long. Mostly recognised locally as a source of caviar, the economic potential for farming white sturgeon as a commercial food source for its meat in North America has only been recognized in recent years.

Revenues from sturgeon farming can be up to 10 times that of farmed salmon and, coupled with the fact that sturgeon are much more robust under culture conditions in closed-containment systems than salmon, it makes sturgeon farming in freshwater tank farm facilities very attractive.

And with the ICSS having exclusive ownership of brood stock in B.C. and the growing practical application knowledge, these factors bode well for massive aquaculture benefits for Vancouver Island and other B.C. locations in the next few years.

"The vision for the ICSS to become a knowledge and innovation hub supporting the development of a sustainable sturgeon aquaculture industry in B.C," added Don Tillipaugh, ICSS director.

the Fish Site Editor

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