Sea Grant Aquaculture Extension 2010: Enhancement in Marine Finfish and Molluscan Shellfish Aquaculture

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Project Type: 
Extension
Project Number: 
EI/SSSS-101 NSI Grant

Participants:

Ken La Valley UNH - Cooperative Extension Principal Investigator
Michael Chambers N.H. Sea Grant Extension Specialist for Marine Aquaculture
Situation: 
Need for Seafood Production
 
The worldwide demand for seafood has increased steadily over the years, while since 1985 the amount of seafood harvested from wild populations has remained constant (FAO, 2002, 2003, 2006). The increased demand has been met entirely through aquaculture, which is a multi-billion dollar industry (FAO, 2007). The United States is a major consumer of aquaculture products, yet we grow only a small fraction of what we consume (FAO, 2007). A major obstacle to the growth of a U.S. aquaculture industry has been the need to find environmentally sustainable methods of farming fish and shellfish.
 
An Economically Challenged Commercial Fishing Industry
 
Commercial fishing has been a vital component of New England’s economy for over two centuries and has grown to a half-a-billion dollar industry. Equally important, recent economic studies based on National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) data suggests that every job created in the seafood industry generates one-and-a-half jobs in the regional economy; jobs in other sectors such as food processing, tourism, restaurants and boatyards (Hoagland, et. al. 2005).
 
During the last ten years, however, an influx of lower-cost, imported seafood has filled the void between domestic wild harvest and aquaculture production and consumer demand. In addition to the economic impact of imported seafood, the fishing industry has been faced with repeated management measures that have reduced fishing opportunities and significantly reduced the fishing fleet. The recent, May 1, 2010, change from a Days-at-Sea management framework to catch shares or landing quotas will result in up to a 40% decrease in potential landings for commercial groundfish fishermen. If we can replace imported seafood with domestic product, we can create jobs and improve local economies.
 
We see aquaculture extension as critical to the expansion of a regional aquaculture production sector. New Hampshire Sea Grant and researchers associated with UNH’s Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center are well-positioned to offer assistance to small boat commercial fishermen to implement a range of growing system technologies as a suitable business alternative to fishing. Transitioning to part or full time fish or shellfish farming would allow many in the industry to continue fishing while generating additional income through marine farming.
 
UNH Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center
 
The University of New Hampshire's Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center's goal is to provide the research and development necessary to stimulate an environmentally sustainable aquaculture industry in New England and nationwide. The Center is an international leader in off-shore mussel aquaculture and Atlantic marine fish production. N.H. Sea Grant has partnered with the center since its establishment. This relationship well positions the aquaculture extension program within the state, regional, national and international networks and will provide access to experts, emerging technology and aquaculture advancements.
Goals: 
The overall goal of the project is to increase the number of aquaculture producers in the region, focusing on New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts by routinely increasing awareness of environmentally sustainable and available finfish and shellfish aquaculture technology, and transferring existing and emerging technology to displaced or transitioning commercial fishermen as well as interested entrepreneurs. 
 
To meet the overall project goals the following specific objectives will be accomplished:
 
·         Foster interest in and awareness of finfish and shellfish aquaculture systems among individuals and members of the commercial fishing industry in Maine, N.H. and Mass.
 
 ·         Demonstrate production models for offshore mussel longline culture, oyster grow-out production and finfish cage culture
 
 ·         Provide dockside and on-the-water workshops and training to transfer farming technology to interested individuals, groups or local communities
 
 ·         Provide guidance and technical support (permitting, site selection, etc.) for technology adopters
 
 ·         Continue to provide new and emerging aquaculture technologies including multi-trophic and “zero” discharge land-based recirculating systems to interested commercial fishermen and individuals
Objectives: 
Globally, the demand for seafood continues to rise while many wild fish and shellfish stocks are at or beyond sustainable harvest levels (FAO 2006). To meet rising consumer demand, much of the production will depend on continued growth of the aquaculture industry (FAO 2007). Over the last five years, the commercial fishing fleet has been faced with increasingly restrictive management measures established to rebuild declining stocks. By design, these measures have limited fishing opportunities and significantly reduced the inshore small vessel fleet. We see aquaculture extension as critical to the expansion of a regional aquaculture production sector. New Hampshire Sea Grant and researchers associated with UNH’s Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center are well-positioned to offer assistance to small boat commercial fishermen to implement a range of growing system technologies as a suitable business alternative to fishing. Transitioning to part or full time fish or shellfish farming would allow many in the industry to continue fishing while generating additional income through marine farming.
 
The loss of aquaculture extension capacity at N.H. Sea Grant has severely impacted our ability to respond to outreach and technology transfer requests from the region. Sea Grant maintains a partnership with the UNH Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center (AMAC), a center that has been in the forefront of marine finfish and shellfish aquaculture research and development for the last ten years. This relationship will provide access to state, regional, national and international networks and will provide access to experts, emerging technology and aquaculture advancements. This proposal is requesting a new, full-time Aquaculture Extension position that will compliment and support the current efforts within N.H. Sea Grant Extension as well as work collaboratively with AMAC to coordinate technology transfer of inshore, offshore and land-based marine farming strategies as they emerge. 
 
We anticipate that this project will greatly improve the possibility for expansion of both shellfish and finfish aquaculture in the U.S. In particular, the fishing communities of the northeast are facing difficult challenges as they adapt to new fisheries management initiatives that are now in place. An important part of the fishing industries strategy for maintaining their heritage and livelihood is to find alternative ways to complement and diversify their operations. We see that one important alternative is developing aquaculture methods into their business plans. If funded, the enhancement of aquaculture extension at N.H. Sea Grant will greatly increase our capacity to demonstrate and transfer existing and emerging opportunities in both shellfish and finfish aquaculture. 
 
Specific benefits include alternative and economically viable uses for underutilized fishing vessels, employment opportunities for displaced fishermen, business and marketing opportunities for suppliers, restaurants, wholesale and retail outlets, and the benefit of locally produced, high quality seafood for local, regional and national consumers.

Accomplishments: 
2014
Shellfish aquaculture contributes over $1M in ecosystem services to Great Bay Estuary
The shellfish aquaculture industry spawned over the years in the Great Bay Estuary with very direct N.H. Sea Grant guidance is providing fresh and local seafood to the region and helping area fishermen make a living while also contributing over $1 million in services to the estuarine environment.
RELEVANCE: Over the past few years, a great deal of attention has been focused on the impaired water quality of the Great Bay Estuary, particularly on the need to reduce nutrient inputs. One element of this has been a concern that aquaculture development in the area would exacerbate the problem.
RESPONSE: N.H. Sea Grant has been working for many years to help develop an aquaculture industry in the region, both to assure a supply of quality seafood and to help local commercial fishermen find ways to earn a living while remaining on the water. Various studies have shown that shellfish remove nutrients, including phosphorous, carbon and nitrogen, from their environment 24/7 through their filter feeding. Because of this, NHSG has been particularly interested in developing shellfish aquaculture in the estuary, both in the form of oyster farms and in multi-trophic aquaculture, which combines fish, seaweed and blue mussels.
RESULTS: A NOAA Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment study validated NHSG’s approach to the reduction of nutrient loading. The study placed a value of $1.1-1.3 million on the ecosystem services that the current level of shellfish aquaculture is providing the Great Bay Estuary and further estimated that the value could triple with future expansion.
2012
N.H. Oyster Aquaculture Industry Continues to Grow
RELEVANCE: In N.H.’s Great Bay Estuary, runoff from impervious surfaces during spring melt and after heavy precipitation generates high nutrient influxes to the bay. Eastern oyster aquaculture has been growing steadily in Great Bay since 2010. It has provided opportunities for commercial fishermen to diversify and the filter feeding oysters have helped reduce the high nutrient levels in the bay.
RESPONSE: The N.H. aquaculture lease process was modified for the bay in 2010. N.H. Fish and Game is now the lead agency with input from N.H. Department of Environmental Services and the Army Corp of Engineers. The new process was aided by researchers at UNH and regional programs, including the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership and the Nature Conservancy. The process now allows shellfish farmers to secure lease sites that can be renewed every five years. N.H. Sea Grant has been instrumental in helping new farmers through the permitting process and with the development of profitable oyster farms.
RESULTS: In 2012, the number of permits jumped from five to eight farms, with over 20 acres in production. This created 10 additional jobs; there are now 22 people working in the Great Bay shellfish industry. The farms are seeded out with more than six million oysters with a farm gate value of over $4 million. This is a 66% increase since 2011 when about four million oysters were in culture.
RECAP: The N.H. oyster aquaculture industry continues to create jobs for coastal N.H., provide a fresh, locally raised product, and help clean up Great Bay.

Multi-trophic Aquaculture Launched in the Piscataqua River
RELEVANCE: The northeast fishing industry has suffered economically due to reduced landings and changing federal regulations, and fishermen are exploring strategies that can sustain their heritage.
RESPONSE: N.H. Sea Grant and UNH have been investigating small-scale, multi-trophic aquaculture in the Piscataqua River. By integrating the production of steelhead trout and mussels on the same platform, fishermen can culture two products for sale while having minimal impact to the ecosystem. Initial permitting was established through N.H. Fish and Game at six sites. However, the EPA stopped the process due to concerns about adding nitrogen to the already nitrogen impaired river. NHSG engaged state and federal agencies, conducted literature searches and calculated nitrogen mass balance models based on the trout/mussel aquaculture concept.
RESULTS: The EPA granted UNH permission to demonstrate the project in 2012. Eight local fishermen were brought on to learn and participate. The project produced 1254 pounds of trout, which sold for $6 a pound at seafood markets in N.H. Ten million wild mussel spat was collected on the cage platform and is now in growout. Expected harvest weight is 7.5 tons by late summer 2013. In the river, nitrogen input from the trout was 103 pounds, while nitrogen absorption and retention from the mussels will be 200 pounds. Therefore the mussels will remove almost twice the nitrogen from the river than the trout added to it. This new culture method will help establish a permitting process for aquaculture in New England, and will also create new sources of sustainable, local seafood, employment and help fishermen diversify into seafood production while still fishing.
RECAP: A new model for integrated multi-trophic aquaculture of steelhead trout and mussels has been accepted by the EPA, one that will benefit both regional fishermen and water quality.

Sea Grant Working with Mystic Aquarium to Explain Aquaculture
NHSG has teamed up with Conn. and Maine Sea Grant to help create aquaculture exhibits at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Conn. The aquarium is constructing a new center for aquarium research and considering exhibits that would highlight locally produced seafood. Working with the aquarium and aquaculture officials from NOAA and the USDA, Sea Grant is helping to provide a positive message about the importance of responsible aquaculture in the U.S.

Sea Grant Helping Mussel Aquaculturists Evolve their Industry
N.H. and Maine Sea Grant have been collaborating to improve mussel raft technologies. Currently, rafts are constructed from steel, wood and square floats and can produce around 40,000 pounds of mussels per year. The industry wants to expand and move to more exposed sites with higher energies. To do this, rafts will have to be redesigned so that they can survive these sites while increasing the yield per raft. Sea Grant engaged mussel farmers from the two states in collecting data that will be used in the redesign. This information will be forwarded to several high-density polyethylene (HDPE) manufacturers that can create a sea worthy design for offshore culture.

2011

N.H. Sea Grant Helps Build Oyster Aquaculture Industry and Improve Water Quality in Great Bay
RELEVANCE: Great Bay Estuary, with its rich flora and fauna, covers more than 17 square miles of intertidal area in New Hampshire. The bay is overly rich in nutrients due to runoff from fertilized fields and lawns. Developing shellfish aquaculture in the bay would improve the water quality because the shellfish would consume some of the excess nutrients. 

 

RESULTS: The new leasing process has seen a 300% increase in oyster aquaculture production since 2010. A total of five farms covering 20.5 acres are now seeded commercially with over four million juvenile oysters on the bottom. Current value of the standing crop is approximately $2.8 million. This new industry has created jobs for coastal N.H., provides a fresh, locally raised product, and has helped clean up Great Bay.
RECAP: The development of oyster aquaculture in the Great Bay Estuary has created jobs, generated income and has reduced nutrients and turbidity in the bay.
RESPONSE The N.H. aquaculture lease process was modified for the bay in 2010. N.H. Fish and Game is now the lead agency with input from the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and the Army Corps of Engineers. The new process was aided by researchers and staff at UNH, N.H. Sea Grant and regional programs, including the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership and the Nature Conservancy. The process now allows aquafarmers to secure leases for oyster restoration and aquaculture.

N.H. Sea Grant Leading Effort to Combine Steelhead Trout and Mussel Aquaculture in Region
N.H. Sea Grant and UNH have been investigating small-scale, multi-trophic aquaculture systems to help support local fishermen in the Piscataqua River in response to the fishing industry being faced with repeated management measures reducing fishing opportunities, bag limits and income. Integrating the production of Steelhead trout and mussels on the same platform can result in a nitrogen neutral impact to the ecosystem. Initial permitting was established through N.H. Fish and Game for the fishermen at six sites. However, the EPA stopped the process due to concerns about new nitrogen sources to a river that was already nitrogen impaired. As a result, NHSG conducted meetings and literature searches and calculated nitrogen mass balance models to explain the nitrogen neutral concept to the EPA. After a year of reporting, the EPA decided to issue a 308 letter allowing for a demonstration project in the summer of 2012. The business set up in 2011 to serve as a demonstration project created two jobs and earned $43,120. Results from this project will educate the fishermen and create a permitting pathway for the production of a new source of sustainable seafood for New England.

Publications

Available from the National Sea Grant Library (use NHU number to search) or NH Sea Grant

Information Sheet

  • New Hampshire raised steelhead trout (2011). Michael Chambers and W. Huntting Howell.
  • Marine biofouling, a friend or foe of cage aquaculture (2011). Michael Chambers.