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Major Breakthrough In The Mussel Industry

Major Breakthrough In The Mussel Industry Announced

The mussel industry today announced that it has developed the techniques and technology to domesticate the greenshell mussel industry in the same way that other biological industries are farmed. This it says will have major implications for the future development and expansion of the industry both domestically and internationally.

This new development is the result of a five year, $5 million research and development project funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. The work was carried out by Cawthron scientists at the Glenhaven Aquaculture Centre – a joint venture involving the Cawthron Institute in Nelson and local landowners and dairy farmers, the Dixon family.

The Chief Executive of the Cawthron Institute, Graeme Robertson says the research team has developed very cost effective techniques for the production of seed mussels, known as spat, in the hatchery environment and this means that it is easy to scale up production. He says a long term selective breeding programme is under way, to improve the quality and quantity of the shellfish produced.

In another important new breakthrough, a team of scientists from Cawthron and AgResearch have developed a means of storing indefinitely large quantities of sperm from bivalve shellfish. They have recently succeeded in doing the same for bivalve eggs, which is believed to be a world first,. These tools will be a great help to the selective breeding programme.

Graeme Robertson says in time the new ‘domesticated’ mussels will be different to the present ‘wild’ mussels that are being farmed and that the industry will no longer be dependent on the wild mussels as the basis for commercial operations. He says with the selective breeding programme, the ‘domestic’ mussels will grow faster and have a more uniform size and quality. The range of products from the industry will increase and diversify into new markets such as health, biologicals and condiments. These advances he says will enhance the long term profitability and viability of the industry.

According to Graeme Robertson, the new developments at Nelson are of international significance and the knowledge and techniques could be applied elsewhere and to other species. He says the technology platform in shellfish and hatchery management is an ideal launching pad for further research, including other shellfish species, fin fish and seaweeds.

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