By C. Greg Lutz
It’s the little things that count. Really. While most of the examples I could come up with pertaining to aquaculture are a bit more direct than the “butterfly effect,” many times our industry, and our operations, are impacted by things we tend to take for granted.
Who could have predicted that a bacterial disease as prevalent and costly as columnaris could be controlled under certain conditions just by adding a little clay to the water? Or that tiny microbes could significantly increase the protein content and digestibility of soybean meal for use in fish feeds? Or that putting more emphasis on commercialization rather than household food security produces much greater benefit for small aquaculture producers receiving financial and technical support through development agencies? Or that a developing nation could have more pristine shellfish growing sites because most of the population lacks flush toilets?
And who would have guessed that stocking isopods into systems for rearing lobster pl’s could reduce maintenance time by half, while providing a constant supply of live food? Or that something as simple as a petri dish with a screened window could solve the problem of how to attain suitably sized juvenile lobsters for release in stock enhancement programs?
An example of the “little things” principle that I found particularly interesting, if not disturbing, involves the role microsporidians can play in the culture of several species. Although not lethal, these spore-forming unicellular parasites greatly retard the growth of shrimp. Their impacts can be masked by other more virulent diseases, complicating management and control practices related to both microsporidians and Early Mortality Syndrome.
If you raise fish or other aquatic animals commercially or for research, the principle of paying attention to the little things is of supreme importance in terms of management practices. Keeping track of a breeding program can mean the difference between continuous improvement and continuous genetic decline, especially for small producers. And the simple exercise of developing an early detection system for disease within an aquaculture operation can mean the difference between minor corrective actions and complete crop loss. Small changes in behavior or performance can be easily overlooked, unless they are being measured and evaluated on a regular schedule. Anything that is not measured is difficult to manage – be it biological, mechanical, chemical or financial in nature.
And speaking of little things… nutrition and inventory management in larval culture are important aspects for many aquatic species. We address both these topics in this issue from research and commercial perspectives.
We are always interested in your story ideas, questions and comments. Really. Write to us anytime here at Aquaculture Magazine, at email@example.com
Dr. C. Greg Lutz has a B.A. in Biology and Spanish by the Earlham College at Richmond, Indiana, a M.S. in Fisheries and a Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science by the Louisiana State University. His interests include recirculating system technology and population dynamics, quantitative genetics and multivariate analyses and the use of web based technology for result-demonstration methods.