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Vertical Integration Key To Sea Cucumber Success

Large numbers of larvae of the sea cucumber (Australostichopus mollis) have settled in the intensive settlement system at the Ahumoana a Toi Aquaculture Centre, writes Andrew Morgan.

Currently, the ability of this pilot intensive commercial settlement system to produce large numbers of juveniles is being assessed. This system is also part of a production platform designed as a pilot for selective breeding.

The nutritional requirements of larvae and its impact on growth and development and how this relates to the rearing environment is used for successful intensive and sustainable pilot commercial-scale production. Larval competency and the ability of large numbers of larvae to complete the larval cycle, settle and become juveniles are very dependent on this. Handling techniques during larval rearing have a significant impact on the numbers of larvae completing the larval cycle and settling.

A combination of handling techniques and system design is used for successful intensive pilot commercial-scale production. The success of producing large numbers of juveniles intensively relies on optimising spawning, fertilisation and the larval cycle, and understanding all aspects of the interaction between biology and system design.

Although the design of the settlement system impacts on the final number of juveniles, the ability to produce large numbers on a commercial scale depends on the complete control of breeding and larval rearing. This is the final stage of a successful season, with work being based on periods of research over the last 15 years breeding and rearing large numbers of larvae of both Holothuria scabra in Australia and A mollis in New Zealand through to settlement.

Techniques developed from 1996 to 1998 at the Queensland Department of Primary Industries’ Bribie Island Aquaculture Research Centre and later from 1999 to 2002 at the University of Auckland’s Leigh Marine Laboratory have been combined successfully to run a pilot-scale commercially intensive production system using recirculation technology and batch culture.

A considerable amount of information continues to be collected, quantifying aspects of reproduction and the larval cycle and its exploitation in captivity for commercial-scale breeding. In addition, the more practical aspects of dealing and working with commercial numbers of eggs and larvae produced from quality conditioned broodstock are being developed further.

System design and use for intensive commercial-scale production and selective breeding requires vertical integration of the entire process, from how and when broodstock are collected, conditioned and spawned to the process of spawning, fertilisation and hatching, rearing and settlement, the early juvenile period and nursery phase culture. This intensive vertical integration of production is currently under development at Ahu Moana a Toi.

TheFishSite is grateful to New Zealand Aquaculture and Andrew Morgan for this article.

April 2011

the Fish Site Editor

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