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Research boost to aquaculture industry

Research boost to aquaculture industry

New Zealand could soon add kingfish, groper, kina, lobsters, and eels to its list of successful aquaculture exports. Aquaculture research by the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has received $1.5 million a year in funding for 6 years from the Foundation of Research, Science & Technology.

“This research will be done in collaboration with leading industry partners and developed into viable and profitable commercial culture,” said NIWA Principal Scientist Andrew Jeffs.“ “We expect this research and development to be generating more than $10 million of new products each year. About 80% of this income would be from exports and we believe that the commercial growth of these species will continue to increase exponentially. We have seen this with the greenshell mussel industry, which is now worth nearly $200 million a year to New Zealand.”

The focus on five high value species was a deliberate strategy to reduce reliance on New Zealand’s three main species – greenshell mussels, chinook salmon, and Pacific oysters. “Aquaculture is New Zealand’s fastest growing rural industry, but the overall value of our product is only about $1500 a tonne, whereas the value of the Australian aquaculture product is about $30 000 a tonne because they culture higher value species, such as tuna and prawns.“

Dr Jeffs said finfish farming could generate up to 800 tonnes of fish per hectare. This would be worth about $10 million, and would create more than 50 jobs.

NIWA will work closely with more than 30 industry and Maori groups to carry out this research and commercial development. NIWA’s state-of-the-art $3 million aquaculture research facility at Bream Bay near Whangarei will be used extensively in the programme. The facility is already producing kingfish, mussels, and oysters, and is the site of what will be New Zealand’s largest paua farm. The kina research will be focused at NIWA’s cold water facility at Mahanga Bay in Wellington.

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