Snapper secrets under close scrutiny

Last updated 12:58 02/04/2014
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NEW HOME: Seafood Technologies general manager of science, Danette Olsen, left, and Plant and Food Research head, Peter Landon-Lane in the new Maitai Seafood Research Facility during the opening.

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Thousands of snapper of all sizes are putting in an appearance within a stone's throw of the Port Nelson boat ramp - but none is under threat from rod and line.

Plant and Food Research's $2.8 million seafood research facility behind Talley's in Akersten St, officially opened yesterday, will focus on snapper as scientists uncover their secrets.

Their work, until now confined to the Nelson headquarters in the large building with the mural in Wakefield Quay, has already led to a breakthrough hailed as potentially revolutionary for fish catching around the world.

Precision Seafood Harvesting, a new system of trawling which allows adult fish to be brought alive on to boats and juveniles to escape, was unveiled in Auckland last October after being secretly developed in Nelson by Plant and Food Research.

At the time, Sanford chief executive Eric Barratt and Sealord Group chief executive Graham Stuart said it was the most exciting development in their working lives. The two companies and iwi-owned Aotearoa Fisheries funded the $52m project in a dollar-for-dollar deal with the Government.

The new centre contains 48 seawater tanks housed under tunnel houses and all drawing water from the Haven. There are two tanks of 50,000 litres, 10 of 25,000l and 36 of 7500l.

This allowed them to cater for everything from fish larvae to adults, said Plant and Food's general manager of science and seafood technologies, Danette Olsen.

"We just ran out of space, basically."

She said the scientists were in the process of moving fish of various sizes from the Wakefield Quay building. "Snapper is the marine equivalent of our lab rat - it's easy to grow and easy to handle. We learn about that and then we'll look at other species to see what the differences are."

The new facility was part of an almost trebling of Plant and Food's core funding into seafood, she said.

And while the research is being done with commercial fishing as the driver, there's a spinoff for recreational fishers.

"When we do larval rearing the first batch is thousands and thousands of fish.

"We do have to do a cull, so we release them into the Haven," Olsen said.

The facility, opened by Nelson MP Nick Smith, was built by Nelson company IMB Construction and project managed by Jerram Tocker Barron Architects.

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