Shellfish farming research team visits Marlborough Sounds

Cawthron Institute aquaculture scientist Kevin Heasman with a proposed advanced prototype of a mooring system to be used ...

Cawthron Institute aquaculture scientist Kevin Heasman with a proposed advanced prototype of a mooring system to be used at open ocean farms.

Shellfish exports could increase by $300 million a year if farming shellfish in the open sea proved successful, an international group says.

A team of world class scientists and engineers visited the Marlborough Sounds to study open ocean shellfish farming.

Cawthron Institute project leader Kevin Heasman​ said there was a real opportunity to more than double New Zealand's aquaculture production.

Farmed mussels

Farmed mussels

Innovations could reduce some of the risks shellfish were exposed to from stormy weather when farmed in open seas than sheltered bays closer to shore.

READ MORE:  Open ocean farming project set to boost New Zealand exports

"It is the first research project of its type in the world to look at developing new shellfish technology suited to the high energy offshore environment," he said.

"At present there is more than 10,000ha of consented open ocean water-space in New Zealand. Some progress has been made into developing this space but the open ocean is a very demanding environment. This research project should open up possibilities and remove some hindering factors."

Heasman said stormy weather could harm shellfish mussel stocks and damage equipment and the team was working to reduce the risks.

The Cawthron Institute project included international scientists, Canterbury University graduates and aquaculture industry experts.

Together they hoped to develop novel, robust, efficient, and low maintenance systems, Heasman said.

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"We're innovating systems to work deep under the water's surface where culture structures holding the shellfish are better protected from stormy weather.

"Here they also have plenty of space to grow in harmony with other wildlife."

Hydraulic and coastal engineer Dr Nils Goseberg​ said it was unusual to have such a talented international group together to focus on aquaculture solutions.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had provided $6 million funding for the five year project.

Sanford Ltd and Whakatohea Mussels Opotiki Ltd were supporting the project.

Cawthron Institute chief executive Professor Charles Eason​ said the institute was pleased to have pulled together a world leading team from different engineering and science disciplines.

"We have globally leading marine research institutes working alongside New Zealand researchers and industry experts," he said.

Norwegian Aquaculture Technology Research Director Dr Arne Fredheim from the Scandinavian SINTEF research organisation, German Professor of Applied Marine Biology Dr Bela H. Buck from the Alfred Wegener Institute, and ‎University of New Hampshire Director of Coastal and Ocean Technology Programs Professor Richard Langan were also involved in the project.


 - The Marlborough Express

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