For nearly 50 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) has invested in the development of sustainable marine aquaculture businesses. Sea Grant will likely be investing $50 to $100 million in aquaculture research and technology transfer over the next 10 years. A clear vision will help guide strategic investments to support and expand the aquaculture industry. In March 2016, the Sea Grant Association established a committee to develop a 10-year vision for aquaculture investments by NOAA’s NSGCP. The purpose of this 10-year vision is to (1) determine Sea Grant’s most appropriate roles over the next 10 years, and (2) identify priority research and outreach strategies leading to sustainable economic development, environmental, conservation and social well-being.
The committee’s findings have been compiled and released in a final report. This report outlines Sea Grant’s role in prioritizing research strategies that lead to sustainable economic development and environmental conservation while also working to expand the nation’s aquaculture industry. Following are excerpts from this document describing Sea Grant’s 10-year aquaculture vision as it pertains to molluscan shellfish.
Current and Emerging Species
Five focus areas are identified in the report: 1) commerce, 2) permitting and policies, 3) current and emerging species, 4) production systems, and 5) seafood safety. Under the focus area of Current and Emerging Species, two priorities are identified. First, increase domestic production of currently farmed and promising new species through research and Extension efforts that support improvements in nutrition, reproduction, larval rearing and genomics to enhance growth, improve health and adapt to changing conditions, such as ocean acidification and climate change. Second, improve hatchery production to produce reliable shellfish seed, macro-algae seedlings and finfish juveniles to accelerate industry growth.
Within this aquaculture group, there is a common need for genetics research to improve yield, survival, growth, quality and safety of commonly cultured species, such as oysters, hard clams and mussels. Work in this area should consider the changing marine and estuarine environments caused by climate change. While there are a number of potential emerging species, the following molluscan shellfish have shown promise as viable commercial candidates that warrant further research to improve production: Olympia oysters, geoduck clams, sunray venus clams, butter clams, soft shell clams, purple-hinge rock scallops, and razor clams. For emerging molluscan species, there are critical research needs to optimize production in all stages, from hatchery through nursery and growout. In addition, adoption and commercialization of new species will benefit from extension support.