Aquaculture news

Senior aquaculture scientist Dr Jane Symonds
24 May 2016

Scientists helping optimise marine farming

Scientists at Cawthron Institute are investigating how new technologies can help the aquaculture industry grow, while sustainably managing environmental impacts.
“One of the biggest challenges for industry is access to marine space for growth,” says Cawthron senior aquaculture scientist Dr Jane Symonds, one of New Zealand’s leading fish geneticists.  “Our science can help by understanding more about the biology of farmed seafood species and optimising performance and efficiency.”

“There are new and exciting high-throughput technologies, such as genomics, that can cost-effectively provide us with more information than we have ever had before. For example, these new technologies can help us understand how the environment, feed and microbial communities interplay to influence fish performance, and sustainably improve productivity of the high-value species we farm in New Zealand.”

Dr Symonds specialises in the application of genetics and selective breeding technologies to enhance commercial production. She is currently involved in a wide range of applied aquaculture projects, including skeletal health, optimising nutrition in king salmon, biosecurity and helping the shellfish industry maximise gains from commercial breeding.

Commercialisation of research for sustainable and profitable aquaculture development is a key driver for Dr Symonds, who believes industry-focussed research programmes supported by excellent scientific rigour and applied R&D expertise are an important pathway to commercial success.

Before joining Cawthron in 2015, she led NIWA’s breeding and genetics technologies programme for hapuku, kingfish and paua, while also continuing her research on king salmon and working closely with the salmon industry.

“I moved to Nelson as it is an important hub for aquaculture research and industry development. My role at Cawthron provides a great opportunity for innovation, working closely with the aquaculture industry in the region,” she says.

“The industry really wants to grow and there is lots of opportunity ahead for aquaculture. We’re keen to use our expertise to help them realise this potential.”

From 1993 to 2000, Dr Symonds worked for New Zealand King Salmon in Blenheim at the Kaituna Research and Development Hatchery. As broodstock manager she established New Zealand’s first commercial selective breeding programme for king salmon.

“The programme has been very successful and continues to deliver benefits to the industry.”

From there Dr Symonds took her passion for aquaculture and the benefits of good genetic management to Canada where, as Director of Aquaculture at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, she led an $18 million project to develop breeding and genomic resources for Atlantic cod aquaculture.

“I’ve been involved in aquaculture research for around 24 years and there’s still so much to learn and benefit to be gained.”

To find out more about aquaculture research at Cawthron click here