Aquaculture news

Dr Symonds with scientists and industry leaders
4 May 2017

Research fit for a king salmon

Scientists from around the world are in Nelson this week to work with domestic experts and salmon industry leaders on a Cawthron Institute led research programme that aims to improve the profitability and production efficiency of king salmon.

Cawthron Senior Aquaculture Scientist Dr Jane Symonds leads the programme and is an expert in the application of genetics and selective breeding technologies to enhance commercial production.

“Atlantic Salmon have been heavily researched, but much less is known about the king salmon species farmed in New Zealand.

“It’s important we identify and fill knowledge gaps, because by understanding processes that influence king salmon’s feed conversion, industry can improve their performance, profitability, and sustainability,” said Dr Symonds.

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment funds this $12.85 million research programme and industry are providing vital input by sharing their priorities and challenges with the research team, as well as data, staff and infrastructure, and fish for sampling.

The research follows three broad themes; the indicators of healthy king salmon, on farm performance and environmental interactions, and improving performance and efficiency.

Since the project first began eight months ago, Cawthron scientists have been visiting salmon farms, building environmental sensors and developing standardised sampling methods for use on the farms.

The research programme is tailored for the king salmon farm environment, so today the expert group visited a farm in the Marlborough Sounds. Prof. Tim Dempster from the University of Melbourne, School of BioSciences participated in the field trip and said, “It was excellent to experience a New Zealand salmon farm environment first-hand.

The technical advisory group meeting includes a field trip to local salmon farms

“Each farm from the top to the bottom of the South Island is different, so it’s good this research is taking environmental factors into account.

“This programme is a great opportunity for scientists to learn more about the king salmon species and I’m looking forward to reviewing the research outcomes.”

Aquaculture New Zealand Technical Director Colin Johnston gave the international experts an overview of the New Zealand salmon industry and said, “This industry shares social values around protecting our marine environment and we see the opportunity for this science to help.

“The research programme aims to convert feed into fish more efficiently, and that can only be a good thing.”

Listen to Dr Symonds talk about good genetics, selective breeding and smart farming

Dr Johnston also mentioned that the New Zealand industry achieved the ‘best choice’ rating by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. This means King salmon farmed in New Zealand are internationally recognised as being sustainably and responsibly produced.

An important part of this week’s meeting also included planning for the programme’s next phase, experimental trials. These trials will start next year in a purpose built multi-million dollar facility at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park.

In the trials individual fish will be tagged, tracked, and measured; allowing scientists to gain unparalleled insight into how each fish responds to changes in its environment and feed.

The technical advisory group meeting runs from 3 – 5 May in Nelson with the next meeting planned for 2019 when the group will review research progress.