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Kathryn Wiltshire, a SARDI researcher, collecting brown seaweed, Sargassum sp, for a seaweed farming project. (Photo Credit: SARDI)

Open sea trials will examine seaweed farming's impact on finfish aquaculture

Click on the flag for more information about Australia AUSTRALIA
Monday, June 17, 2013, 04:00 (GMT + 9)

The feasibility of farming seaweed to complement aquaculture and safeguard the environment will be examined during open sea trials to be conducted by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) in Spencer Gulf later this year.

Minister for Agriculture, Gail Gago, says the project is an example of how innovative research is supporting the State Government’s strategic priority of Premium Food and Wine from our Clean Environment.

“This project aims to ensure that the Southern bluefin tuna and yellowtail kingfish industries have the opportunity to expand without adverse impact on the environment,” Gago said.

“It may also herald the start of a valuable new Australian industry enjoying a growing demand in national and international markets, particularly in Asia, for products derived from seaweed.”

The three-year AUD 1.1 million (USD 1.05 million) project is funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation on behalf of the Australian Government, with contributions from SARDI (a division of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia, or PIRSA) and the University of Adelaide, as well as commercial participants.

SARDI researcher, Kathryn Wiltshire, says the trials aim to find the right type of seaweed and determine the mass of seaweed needed to effectively and naturally remove the nutrients created by finfish aquaculture.

Wiltshire says this is the first serious work to have been done in Australia on off-shore farming of native seaweeds.

The trials will identify the most suitable species and methods for this type of aquaculture known as integrated multi-trophic aquaculture. It will also provide knowledge on the amount of nutrients removed by seaweeds which will help determine how much seaweed is needed to absorb waste nutrients from finfish aquaculture. This information will also help inform aquaculture development opportunities.

The project will also provide information on methods of seed production, suitable depths for culture, arrangement around farms and preliminary data on seasonal performance to understand the best times of year to plant and to harvest seaweed crops.

Gago added that the levels of nutrient byproducts generated by finfish farming were closely monitored under the South Australian Aquaculture Act. This included annual DNA-based tests conducted by SARDI on behalf of the industry sectors, to assess the health of seafloor organisms to ensure the farming is sustainable.

The commercial value of the seaweed in its uses as food additives, cosmetics, dietary supplements, herbal products, fertilisers and animal feeds including feed for abalone, was also considered.

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