Sea Grant programs in Gulf receive $2 million in NOAA funding to support aquaculture research

oysters are cultured in the gulf of mexico
Oysters are cultivated in the Gulf of Mexico to improve their growth and flavor. Commercial oyster farming also fills in the gap from declining traditional harvesting. (Florida Sea Grant photo)

NOAA Sea Grant announces the award of over $2 million in grants for five projects in Gulf of Mexico states to further advance the development of a sustainable marine and coastal aquaculture industry in the U.S.

The awards are part of an overall $11 million announcement made Oct. 17 that will fund 22 projects in the continental U.S., Hawaii and the Great Lakes region.

The research will address specific priorities of the 2018 Sea Grant National Aquaculture Initiative, including the development of emerging systems or technologies that will advance aquaculture, implementing actionable methods of communicating accurate information about the benefits and risks of U.S. marine aquaculture, and increasing the resiliency of aquaculture systems to natural hazards and changing conditions.

The Gulf-based projects are:

Decreasing mortalities of triploid eastern oysters in commercial grow-out in Gulf of Mexico estuaries
Louisiana Sea Grant
Project Summary: The objective of this project is to decrease mortalities of triploid oysters at commercial farms in Alabama and Louisiana by breeding them from diploid oysters better adapted to local environmental conditions, thereby improving the economic performance of northern Gulf of Mexico oyster farms and the resiliency of the oyster farming community within the region. In addition, differential mortalities between triploids and diploids will be investigated and their potential cause(s) determined. Finally, the biological consequences of different energy allocation in triploid and diploid oysters will be determined using a recently developed dynamic energy budget model for eastern oysters.

Development of genomic breeding tools through transcriptome analysis by RNAseq for sustainability of the hard clam aquaculture industry
Florida Sea Grant
Project Summary: This project will build a global transcriptome profiles for Mercenaria mercenaria (hard clam) and M. campechiensis. Comparison of the two species will identify the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that distinquish the two species, and understand the physiological difference in heat‐shock challenges. This research will be useful for systematic improvement of hard clam aquaculture by allowing the analysis of genotypes and facilitating the study of relationship with phenotypes, in particular for complex economic quantitative traits, such as disease susceptibility and heat tolerance.

Expanding aquaculture of soft blue crabs: technology transfer and cost analysis of pond production and shedding phases
Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant
Project Summary: The project will expand blue crab aquaculture in the U.S. through the demonstration and transfer of developed protocols for sustainable and economical production of peeler crabs. Its objectives include transfer of hatchery and pond production methodologies to North Carolina, transfer of pond production technology to the private sector, development of economic models for hatchery, pond, and shedding phases, and dissemination of project findings through demonstration and outreach materials. This project involves two Sea Grant programs, a private industry partnership, a technology transfer component involving Sea Grant Extension support, two diverse geographic regions, and has potential for advancement of sustainable aquaculture of soft blue crabs in the U.S.

Final steps toward commercialization of pompano aquaculture
Florida Sea Grant
Project Summary: The goal of this project is to overcome the hurdles for the commercialization of Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) in US aquaculture. The objectives are to improve feed conversion ratio (FCR) of pompano and reduce time to market through improved feed technology; improve survival of pompano through the benefit of dietary immunostimulants; and conduct technology transfer to industry partners.

Revitalizing and increasing resilience in soft shell crab aquaculture
Louisiana Sea Grant
Project Summary: The project’s goals are to increase survival of soft shell blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) under changing conditions, increase participation in the industry, and make the industry more resilient to natural hazards. The project’s objective are to 1) increase survival in crab shedding systems under changing conditions by experimentally measuring the role salinity has on the virus CsRV1, determine the best recirculated system to withstand changing conditions, partner with industry to document their Best Management Practices, and develop new management and handling practices where appropriate; and 2) exchange research results to the industry by determining startup costs, developing outreach materials, and sharing results through workshops in and beyond Louisiana.

The projects, which will be conducted over a three-year period, include a 50% match by recipients. One hundred proposals were submitted requesting a total in $48 million in federal grant  funds.


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