The Aquaculture Research Institute of University of Maine, in the United States (US), has been awarded USD 2.25 million per year of congressional programmatic funding from the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) for research on Recirculating Aquaculture Systems at the National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center.
“We’re committed to expanding our knowledge and expertise in RAS to culture fish and shellfish in a way that’s productive and profitable, while ensuring the highest standards of animal well-being. The goal here is to optimize production, efficiency and sustainability” explains Deborah Bouchard, Director of the Aquaculture Research Institute.
In conjunction with an existing USDA-ARS Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement (NACA), this new funding will help establish ARI as a nationally recognized RAS research facility, focusing on shellfish and finfish species.
Prioritized research includes the development of domestic brood stock, sustainable alternative feeds, the impacts of climate change, innovations in waste processing, reduction of environmental impacts, elimination of off-flavor compounds like geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol (MIB), and overall, more energy efficient systems at the Center for Cooperative Aquaculture (CCAR).
This USD 2.25 million in funding represents a significant investment not only for the future of the RAS industry but for workforce development as well. Several new full-time positions have been created through both ARI and USDA-ARS, enhancing infrastructure at CCAR and expanding the facility’s capabilities for cutting-edge research and development.
“This will allow ARI and USDA to continue work on improving Atlantic salmon reproductive inefficiencies. Low eye-up rates have plagued the salmon industry for the past 15 years. A new reproductive physiologist will be hired that will address these inefficiencies. In addition, a new fisheries biologist will be hired that will address off-flavor and water quality as it relates to salmon grown in RAS,” says in that sense Brian Peterson, Director National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center.
“Ultimately, this will lead to a more sustainable and profitable future for the domestic aquaculture industry while making high-quality protein more accessible,” he added
Reducing dependence on coastal ecosystems
Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) represent an increasingly important technology in the field of aquaculture. These land-based culture systems not only boost production and strengthen domestic aquaculture, but also reduce dependence on coastal ecosystems and enhance resilience to changing environmental conditions. With innovative research and effective management, RAS operations have the potential to revolutionize the way we think about sustainable aquaculture.
Water temperature impacts bacteria present on lobsters shells
In turn, University of Maine study found that the bacteria present on lobster shells is highly dependent on water temperature, indicating that climate change may have a direct impact on this important element of lobster’s health. The health of Maine lobsters is always top of mind, and is becoming even more tenuous as the climate warms and changes the dynamics of ocean ecosystems.
Populations of American lobster, Homarus americanus, have declined in southern locations along the North Atlantic coast in recent decades due to increasing ocean temperatures and disease. Such circumstances are progressing northward toward Maine as the climate continues to warm, so it is becoming even more pressing to pinpoint the exact causes of this decline, especially given the complexities of crustacean physiology and immunology.
“Studying these shell bacteria can help us understand how bacteria might impact lobster health, and how the environment can affect which bacteria end up on shells at all. Even if those bacteria are just along for the ride, we hope that studies like these will help us understand the complicated relationship between animals, their environment, microbes and health,” says Sue Ishaq, lead author of the publication and UMaine assistant professor of animal and veterinary sciences.
The researchers monitored 57 adult female lobsters, some which were healthy and some that exhibited epizootic shell disease, which causes erosion of the carapace that has been spreading up the North Atlantic coast over the last two decades.
They looked at the subjects under three seasonal temperature cycles, each three months apart over the course of a year, and tracked the lobsters’ shell bacterial communities using culturing and gene sequencing. The scientists also monitored the progression of the shell-diseased lobster visually and also analyzed the antimicrobial activity of hemolymph, the fluid equivalent of blood in the crustaceans.
The results showed that the number of different species of bacteria and the abundance of bacteria in general were lower in warmer water, but being in cooler water didn’t increase the diversity of bacteria significantly. Temperature wasn’t solely responsible for the death of diseased lobsters, and some bacteria were found on all shells regardless of health status.
However, several bacteria were prevalent on healthy lobster shells but missing or less abundant on diseased shells, which could indicate that shell-disease could cause the loss of a bacteria with a symbiotic relationship to lobster health.