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10,000 snapper for release into Tasman Bay

10,000 snapper finglerlings reared for release into Tasman Bay

Come spring, plans to boost the Tasman Bay snapper fishery will move a step closer when Crop & Food Research fish scientists release some 10,000 baby snapper.

Two batches of fingerlings, which are currently between four and eight centimetres long, are the first offspring raised by the scientists in the Crop & Food Research Port Nelson base. The parents of the fingerlings were 60 large tank-dwelling snapper used in research aimed at improving the post-harvest quality of seafood.

Fish biologist Alistair Jerrett says the fingerlings were raised to provide fish to support their research. "But we were able to raise far more fish than we require so we will release the rest into the Nelson Haven in accordance with our permits."

The fingerlings will first spend this winter growing in tanks at Crop & Food Research or in sea cages in the Marlborough Sounds. "By early spring they will be large enough to have a fighting chance at surviving the shags and other predators out in Tasman Bay."

Mr Jerrett is enthusiastic about the potential their new snapper-raising skills have to revitalise the inshore snapper fishery. "What we'd love to do is play a part in bringing back the good old days of snapper fishing in Tasman and Nelson Bays.

"When released, these fish and subsequent generations represent the first steps towards boosting the inshore and recreational fishery."

Fishing industry representatives recently visited Crop & Food Research. Carol Scott (CEO, Challenger Finfisheries Management Company), Darren Guard (President, Port Nelson Fishermens' Association) and Murray Brown (President, Motueka and Golden Bay Fishermens' Association) say the industry is very much behind the initiative.

"Although a recent survey indicated snapper biomass is increasing in Tasman and Golden Bays, this programme is another positive step towards increasing the existing wild stock. We are very supportive of additional research initiatives such as this," Ms Scott says. "We have also offered to help with the research by reporting the capture of fish that may be tagged as part of the snapper fingerling release programme."

Ms Scott, who also facilitates the Challenger Finfisheries Recreational Advisory Group, says that cooperation between the three industry sectors (commercial, recreational and customary) is a critical factor in the successful management of precious inshore fisheries and is discussed regularly at advisory group meetings.

Getting snapper to breed in captivity has been an exacting task for Mr Jerrett and his team. First they had to learn how to grow snapper food * algae and plankton * and then they harvested snapper spawn from the tanks.

"But we worked through things methodically and although the reference books say wild caught snapper like ours do not spawn readily in captivity, we have had no problems at all here * and indeed ours spawn prolifically.

"The parents, some of which have been held at the Nelson laboratory for nine years, must be pretty comfortable in our tanks. We spoil them a bit though."

This year's production was very much on a small pilot scale but there was minimal additional effort involved in producing the extra fish.

"We felt that we could maximise the benefits to the Nelson region if we promoted the extra fish as a resource to explore stock enhancement or alternative rearing strategies for snapper, as well as using them for our on-going seafood quality research," Mr Jerrett says.

Snapper are a very good experimental fish for the Crop & Food Research's post-harvest seafood research programmes. "We're working with the seafood industry to develop technologies and systems which enable companies to maximise the value from every fish caught.

"That includes understanding much more about the changes which go on in fish after harvest so the industry can provide consumers, both here and overseas, with the very best quality seafoods."


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