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Massachusetts Aquaculture White Paper - Fish Farms & Other Types of Aquaculture
The rearing of finfish in floating structures: net pens, cages, or enclosures, is a developing industry on both coasts in response to greater demand for a quality, cultured product and diminishing wild fisheries.
Fish farms are not to be confused with ocean ranching. Ocean ranching is the practice of releasing cultured salmon from a designated location into the wild, with the expectation that the salmon will return to the point of release in sufficient numbers to create an economically viable enterprise. There are no ocean ranching facilities presently operating on the east coast of the United States, although the practice is prevalent in the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
The fish farm industry has a longer history in the Pacific Northwest than it does on the East Coast. The commercial culture of salmon in the Puget Sound area of Washington began in the 1960's, but has grown slowly since. In 1994, a total of six growers produced approximately 4,800 metric tons at 12 sites. Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) was the predominant species grown, followed by coho salmon (Onchorhynchus kisutch) and chinook (Onchorhynchus tshawytscha). Chinook and coho are grown extensively for fishery enhancement purposes in Washington and Alaska.
The only fish farms located in New England are in Maine, where concerted efforts have been made to encourage their development and establish a streamlined, but strict regulatory climate. Such a framework encouraged rapid growth between 1988 and 1993, but total production dropped by 1.5 million pounds in 1994. Currently, there are twenty-three fish farm leases in Maine, predominantly in the Cobscook Bay area. The leases represent approximately two square miles (out of Maine's 2,000 square mile coast). The predominant species reared is Atlantic salmon. Finfish farms have been proposed in Massachusetts offshore of the north shore, in Cape Cod Bay and south of Martha's Vineyard.
There are presently no marine fish farms is Massachusetts. Aquafuture is raising hybrid striped bass in Turners Falls. The following species have been proposed for farming in the state.
Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)
A fish farm operation consists of distinct components and support arrangements. In addition to the enclosures themselves, boats, ramps, handling equipment, on-and off-loading equipment, and hatchery and/or fry-holding facilities are necessary.
Salmon are normally raised in net-pens, which vary in size and shape depending on the scale of the operation and other factors such as water depth and wave energy. The average dimensions of a typical square pen are 10 meters on a side by 4 meters deep, but circular designs can be up to 30 meters in diameter and 30 meters deep. Pens normally consist of an inner containment net and an outer predator net. Clearance between the predator net and the bottom helps to maintain water circulation, which distributes metabolic waste and excess feed. Pens are usually strung together, connected by walkways, to form a single system. Several systems may exist on one lease site.
Eggs are hatched and fry are obtained from fresh water hatcheries for salmonids. Salmon smolts are generally transferred to net pens off-shore in the spring, where they are held until reaching harvest size. Harvest size will vary depending on the market, the demand, and the regulatory climate. For example, fish meant for the "pan-sized" market would be held until they weighed 0.3 - 0.5 kgs.
Despite being at a competitive disadvantage to wild fish, farm-raised fish do exhibit most of the behavioral traits of an anadromous species. They will migrate to sea if allowed, and return to rivers that are in proximity to their point-of-escapement, and they spawn successfully.
There have been a few proposals to operate offshore fish farms in federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts. One such project was proposed by American Norwegian Fish Farms, Inc. in 1987. The plan described 90 circular net-pens to be sited 35 miles east of Cape Ann and a smolt-raising facility located inside the Rockport breakwater. The Corps of Engineers issued a permit for the offshore site in 1990, but suspended it nine months later after the U.S. Navy raised concerns that the site was located in a designated submarine operating area.
In 1994, the applicant again requested a Corps' permit under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, to deploy and maintain fish pens. This time the site was 53 miles east of Cape Ann, in the Wilkinson Basin, and would initially consist of one string of 10 pens. An eventual expansion to 90 pens would be sought if environmental, structural, and conflict-of-use concerns were satisfied by the functioning prototype. Currently, the Corps is concerned that the proposed mooring design would not survive the site's high energy environment, and that the structures could create a navigation hazard if they were set adrift during a storm. Accordingly, the Corps has required the applicant to develop a mooring system that should, by design, survive the offshore environment.
Such proposals are often plagued by insufficient environmental, economic, and engineering information necessary for an adequate review. Once a project is subject to review, it must pass through a myriad of federal and state agency approvals. An evaluation of past projects illustrates the complexity of the legal requirements involved, as well as the need to create a more manageable structure for siting and permitting fish farms if they are to become economically viable in Massachusetts. Needless to say, the Norwegian American project did not pass the permit review and was not implemented, however, other similar types of proposals may be forth coming.
Proposed fish farm in federal waters require permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for both ocean discharge and dredge and fill activities. The United States Environmental Protection Agency must review and approve an application for a Clean Water Act NPDES permit. The Department of Defense has to issue a waiver on the site as a "non-security" area. Approval by New England Fishery Management Council may also be necessary for any aquaculture facilities located in federal waters (outside of three miles). Additionally, a consistency determination from the state Coastal Zone Management office would be required of any project receiving a federal permit (ACOE, NEFMC). More detail on regulatory requirements can be found in the Legal/Regulatory section.
For any component of the proposed facility to be sited in state waters, the environmental agencies of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must review a coastal finfish aquaculture permit application, a state clean water act permit application, and a variety of commercial fishing, brokering, storage, transfer, and sale licenses. A Chapter 91 lease (or permit) may be required for leasing state submerged lands, however, no such leases have been executed for aquaculture facilities to date. Bottom culture has thus far been waived from the necessity of applying for a Chapter 91 lease, because it is not an exclusive use of submerged land. Off-bottom culture and fish farms are more exclusive uses and therefore, may require a Chapter 91 lease.
This scenario of regulatory complexity is the same everywhere. Maine has created a separate regulatory structure for the encouragement and development of fish farms, distinct from the wild fishery. The Maine system establishes a "one-stop shopping" office for aquaculture generally, with varying requirements depending on whether the project involves a discharge (e.g. finfish) or structures (e.g. finfish and suspended shellfish) or neither (e.g. bottom shellfish culture). Under the jurisdiction of the Department of Marine Resources, Office of Aquaculture, the environmental, engineering, financial, and technical information necessary to demonstrate permit compliance for the State of Maine and for the federal government is submitted and reviewed. This information is shared among the relevant agencies and after agency review is concluded, a public hearing is conducted on the feasibility of granting the aquaculture lease and the conditions attendant to it.
Perhaps the most controversial aspects of any analysis of fish farms are the myriad of environmental-impact questions raised. Fish farms influence and are influenced by a very complex set of natural and manipulated forces, including water velocities, water depths, wind and wave action, dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, and pollution. The most significant environmental changes addressed (and the changes most likely to create dissension, opposition to the industry, and regulatory chaos) can be summarized as follows:
Fish farms generate large amounts of solid wastes in the form of feces and unconsumed feed. These materials are generally deposited in the immediate vicinity of the culture structure. This deposition can result in physical and chemical changes to the natural sediments including decreased redox potential, increased sediment oxygen consumption, and increased concentrations of total volatile solids, total organic carbon, sulfides, nitrogenous compounds and phosphates. While there are profound effects on sediment chemistry and consequently the sediment biota, these effects appear to be localized. Visible accumulation of solids and the alteration of sediment chemistry typically extends no more than 30 meters from the culture structure and benthic community changes observed have been limited to the same thirty meters. Sediment accumulation may be expected to occur beneath any culture facility when less than 15 meters exists between the bottom of the structure and the sea floor. Sediment accumulation is possible at even greater depths, but little data is available since few culture operations have been sited in deeper waters.
The accumulation of organic-rich sediments beneath culture facilities and the consequent depletion of oxygen in the sediment pore waters results in changes in the infaunal invertebrate community. Loss of species intolerant of organic enrichment (typically echinoderms, crustaceans, and mollusks) often occurs. Opportunistic species like polychaete worms may move in and attain numerical dominance in the community. In cases of extreme organic loading, the sediments within the area of greatest impact may reach complete azoic and anaerobic conditions, and form and release methane or hydrogen sulfide gas. These conditions, where they exist at all, tend to be temporally limited to warmer periods of the growing season when feeding and growth rates are high. These impacts may be avoided entirely by modifying the amount of feed used in order to prevent overfeeding and the accumulation of excess feed on the substrate.
Accumulation of organic material in the vicinity of a fish farm may result in the loss of nonmotile megafauna (i.e. surfclams) living in intimate contact with the sediments. However, fish and motile megafauna (e.g. crabs) living on or above the sediment surface are typically found in higher densities around fish farms than in the surrounding area. The attraction of fish and megafauna to the culture area is probably due to increased availability of food in the form of feed unutilized by the cultured fish, the high abundances of opportunistic macroinvertebrates, and the epifaunal organisms living on the culture structure or which fall to the bottom.
Massachusetts' New England Fisheries Development Association is carrying out an interesting polyculture experiment in Maine, in which scallops in bags are being cultured salmon in net pens. In theory, the scallops should be able to use the waste organic material from the salmon for its energy requirements.
Fish farms may change water circulation and water-quality. The likelihood of these effects and their potential magnitude is highly dependent upon site-specific conditions or the species cultured. A fish farm placed in the marine environment may reduce current velocity in the surrounding area, particularly in the down current direction. This reduction in current velocity will impair dilution and dispersal of wastes downstream of the farm. However, this effect is not likely to be significant except in cases of intensive culturing in an area with very restricted natural circulation.
Cultured organisms and culture practices alter the chemistry of the water passing through the fish farm, most notably increasing ammonia concentrations and decreasing dissolved oxygen concentrations. The concentration of nutrients and BOD in the water passing through fish farms are generally very dilute compared to most other discharges to the marine environment.
There are no good available data quantifying phytoplankton changes in the Gulf of Maine as the result of the existence of the 23 currently operating fish farms. As many local species are not limited by the addition of nutrients, it is not likely that measurable effects will be imminently detected. Nutrients may periodically be limited in vertically stratified areas and in poorly flushed embayments.
The importation by fish farms of live stock into the state may represent a threat to wild species. Introduced species may establish self-sustaining wild populations, potentially becoming pests or eliminating native species. Future import requests should be carefully evaluated for this potential.
There are several issues for which available data are inadequate for a conclusive determination of significance. These include (1) the environmental and public health effects of antibiotic usage; (2) alteration of the wild gene pool; (3) the capacity for a fish farm to serve as a disease reservoir for the infection of wild organisms; and (4) the proliferation of human pathogens in the vicinity of fish farms.
Concerns over the introduction of disease through fish farms have long been expressed. Recently, outbreaks in fresh water rivers and streams of whirling disease have magnified this concern. The general outbreak of a species-wide disease is usually associated with some form of stress. Within the culture environment, fish may be stressed by overcrowding, undernourishment, poor water quality, and physical damage associated with handling and confinement. An infected hatchery population of trout was released into a Colorado stream and infected the wild population resulting a large scale mortalities. Wild fish in a Utah river were reportedly infected with whirling disease by water discharged from a hatchery. Last year, the state of New York ordered the destruction of 43,000 pounds of fish from four hatcheries because they were infected with whirling disease. These episodes, if they persist, present a clear challenge to all aquaculture projects.
In marine environments, the transmission of parasites from farmed populations to wild ones has been documented. In Norway, the level of sea lice infestation on wild salmon in some areas where salmon farming is concentrated, has been found to be 10 times greater than areas where there are no farms. In 1990, it was estimated that 500 metric tons of wild salmon were lost from various diseases in Norway.
Although salmonid bacterial diseases are not transmissible to human consumers, there has been some question raised about whether the organic enrichment of bottom sediments caused by fish farms could promote the growth of those species pathogenic to humans. Consumption of shellfish collected in the vicinity of a mariculture operation could then serve as a vector for human infection. This is an issue where available scientific evidence is very meager, but experience to date has failed to demonstrate cause for concern. Increased bacterial abundance in sediments beneath fish farms is probable, but it has not been demonstrated that this increased abundance is of any significance in terms of human health.
The issue of the genetic effects of fish farms is still somewhat speculative. Cultured organisms may be at a competitive disadvantage with respect to wild stock. If escapes and interbreeding occur, there could be some temporary loss of reproductive capacity in the wild population resulting from the production of less-fit genotypes. The potential magnitude of this effect is dependent upon the proportion of the breeding population comprised of escaped animals. It should be noted, however, that for years fisheries managers have routinely transferred hatchery-reared salmonids between river systems to improve commercial fisheries.
Recent evidence has shown that more farm raised populations are escaping than was previously thought. In Norway, single incidents resulted in the loss of 1,453,000 and 700,000 fish in 1991. The annual average of escaped fish in Norway between 1988 and 1991 was two million. Scotland has had losses of up to 184,000 in one incident. In New Brunswick, Canada, it is estimated that 33% of the salmon populating their rivers originated from fish farms. In Maine, escapements have been reported to occur from seals breaking through both inner and outer nets in an attempt to prey on the salmon. There is some fear that the return of Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers are primarily from hatchery stock and thus invading the few wild fish that are left. The potential damage to wild stocks is a real, but not well-understood concern.
Fish farms require the use of drugs (antibiotics, hormones, vitamins, parasiticides and fungicides) in order to maintain healthy populations of fish. Public concern about human health and environmental impacts from such drugs has generated an increasingly strict interpretation and enforcement of regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration resulting in a scarcity of federally approved drugs. Consequently, the efficiency of fish farms has been diminished and costs have increased. Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to invest in aquaculture drug research because of the difficulties associated with gaining FDA approval for such drugs reducing their market potential. Only three therapeutic and one anesthetic drugs are currently approved and available for use by hatchery managers. In response to this pressing problem, state fish and wildlife agencies, including Massachusetts, are each contributing $100,000 over the next 5 years to support the certification of a few essential drugs already being used on a pilot basis.
Although potential environmental effects have not been adequately quantified, some drug characteristics can assure a more limited impact. For example, the greater the use of highly water-soluble drugs (i.e. oxytetracycline), the less impact there is anticipated on surrounding waters. However, more research and development with the pharmaceutical industry's backing is necessary for future aquaculture improvements.
The structural integrity of fish farm structures and the damage that broken structures could cause on vessels underway and adjacent shoreline facilities is an issue which must be considered when evaluating the effects of offshore fish farms. Since most offshore sites in Massachusetts are very exposed to storms, the possibility of facility break-up is real.
The prospects for this industry, however, are clear. World demand is consistently outstripping supplies of finfish and states (i.e. Florida, Virginia, California) in which efforts have been made to encourage the industry are demonstrating economic success. In 1991, Puget Sound fish farms produced approximately 1,500 metric tons of salmonids, primarily coho (Onchorhynchus kisutch), chinook (Onchorhynchus tshawytscha), and Atlantic (Salmo salar) salmon. Maine produced 6,100 metric tons of cultured salmon and trout in 1992 and 360 full-time jobs in the fishery with sales of over $30 million.
The concerns raised about fish farms are similar to those encountered when feedlot management is proposed: pollution, disease, overcrowding, competing uses/abuses and degradation of resources. Traditional uses of this public resource further complicate the siting and promotion of fish farms.
Because fish farms can be an exclusive use of submerged lands, siting fish farms is generally very controversial. Siting problems occur both because other users want to use the same area slated for fish farm development and because shore side landowners and sometimes, communities oppose the locations of fish farms from an aesthetic perspective. Traditional users of the space, such as commercial fishermen and recreational boaters, object to being excluded from the use of public lands. The aesthetic argument has prevailed in some areas of Washington State where aquaculture has basically been shut out by the viewpoint that pristine views are more important (for tourism and lifestyle) than is aquaculture. On the other hand, the argument that aquaculture is a priority use of submerged lands, a means of diversifying the economy in coastal areas and increasing the availability of fresh seafood has resulted in the successful siting of fish farms in several areas of the country.
Fish farms occupy a three-dimensional space; the surface, water column, and bottom. This use effectively forecloses the area of the water column and the bottom from certain other uses; i.e. lobstering, and has been the basis for continuous objection to the siting of fish farms. Currently, this is not a realistic concern. There are no leases in Massachusetts and the leases that exist in Maine obstruct insignificant amounts of the bottom and the water column, relative to their productivity. The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and the Maine State Planning Office report that, in 1992, lobster production was valued at fifty million dollars, while farmed Atlantic salmon were valued at 88 million dollars. There is no current, reliable data available to conclude one way or the other whether fish farming depresses lobster take. Maine DMR believes that there is no relation, as fish farms in Maine do not remove significant amounts of productive lobster bottom. Conflicting uses, including lobstering are considered by DMR when making lease determinations.
The next objection has effectively foreclosed fish farms in some areas; pressure from commercial wild fishermen who do not want to compete with cultivated stock for the same market. In Alaska, where the wild fishery is an extremely potent legislative force, fish farms are proscribed. Although fish farms represent a potential for tremendous productivity and economy of scale, traditional fishermen are very suspicious of them and many objections have been raised about encouraging their development in New England as well.
Scientific uncertainty about the impacts of fish farms on other species, benthic populations, water quality, wind and wave action, disease, and predation, raise a series of questions about indirect costs of fish farms, with few good answers at this point. In Maine, there has not been any reported negative impact on the wild fishery, despite considerable monitoring. The monitoring, however, has been limited to benthic communities and water quality on site. The threat is real enough that the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are currently considering the need to list the Atlantic salmon as endangered or threatened in seven rivers in Maine. The Status Review for Anadramous Atlantic Salmon in the United States, published in January 1995, identifies salmon aquaculture as a major potential threat to the continued existence of the wild population.
Seaweed is an important food source in the Far East and portions of Africa; several varieties of seaweed are cultivated as vegetables, among them Porphyra, Ulva lactuca, Chondrus crispus, and Eucheuma. Its use in the United States, until very recently, has been limited to phycocolloids, the gelatin-like substance extracted from seaweed that is used as a food and drug additive. The phycocolloids are extracted for use as emulsifying, binding, and smoothing agents in foods and drugs. The primary phycocolloids are carrageenan, agar, and alginate and are commonly found in ice cream, pudding, and toothpaste. Carrageenan is being studied because of its ability to slow, and in some instances, to halt the progress of the AIDS virus. Researchers have found that carrageenan inhibits the genetic replication of the AIDS virus and prevents infected cells from fusing together.
Research into seaweed culture and uses of seaweeds in Massachusetts is being conducted Northeastern University's Marine Science Center. Additional research in the area is being directed at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the University of Maine at Orono, and the University of Connecticut.
Although no commercial seaweed culture currently exists in Massachusetts' territorial waters, experimentation and demonstration projects do exist, researching seaweed aquaculture both as a stand-alone operation and as a polyculture with fish farms. The potential exists for production of an economically viable product that utilizes the by-products of fish farm culture.
There is one commercial seaweed farm operating in Maine today that is experimenting with growing two forms of edible seaweeds that use nitrogen- and phosphorus-bearing waste (components of fish wastes) as their food source. The project has not been operating long enough to develop dependable data sets, but the early monitoring results are promising.
The seaweed farm, operating in Passamaquoddy Bay, Eastport, Maine, is culturing two Japanese species of edible seaweed; Porphyra yezoensis and Porphyra nori. The operation grows and distributes its own product and sells pre-seeded nets to other entrepreneurs. Interest in growing seaweed along the east coast is high and many small demonstration projects are being developed by researchers and aquaculturists (the University of Massachusetts at Boston, the University of Maine and the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center are all experimenting with seaweed culture).
The culture process is different and less labor-intensive than fish farming. The seaweed growing apparatus, consisting of 60' by 5' nets stretched across PVC frames, are set out in mid-May in Maine and removed by December. Scallop shells are "seeded" with seaweed spores and spread on the sea bottom. The nets are then placed over the shells, to allow the spores to seed onto the nets. Once seeded, the nets are brought to just below the surface of the water and the seaweed grows, primarily by digesting nutrients from the surrounding water. For the first three weeks after seeding, the nets are raised above the water surface daily to dry. The drying process does not affect the cultured species, but effectively destroys microscopic diatoms that attach and compete with the cultured seaweed. After the first three weeks, the drying process is no longer necessary; the porphyra will have grown large enough to resist diatom intrusion. The first crop takes approximately six weeks to mature and subsequently, for the next four - six weeks, can be harvested weekly.
Limited markets presently exist for seaweed products on the East Coast. Although the demand for fresh nori and other types of edible seaweed is significant in Japan, quality control, shipping problems and most importantly, trade restrictions, hamper East Coast production. The edible seaweed market in the United States is currently worth approximately thirty million dollars annually. Although the Japanese market, estimated to be worth 1.5 billion dollars annually, is closed to foreign imports, edible seaweed is one of the products currently being negotiated by the United States Trade Representative.
The economic advantages of polyculture (combining fish farming and seaweed culture) are clear. Currently, Maine salmon farmers use between 20 - 30% of their total lease area for actual fish culture; seaweed culture could be employed in the fallow areas without obstructing the fish farm operations and maintenance. The seaweed would utilize some of the by-products of the fish culture and the necessary state and federal permits (Maine Dept. of Marine Resources Aquaculture Leases, approvals from the Coast Guard and the United States Army Corps of Engineers for siting, federal NPDES permits) could be obtained contemporaneously, with the submission of similar information for both operations. Additionally, the costs of lease payments, permit fees and marine monitoring could be offset to some extent if polyculture becomes viable.
American Lobsters (Homarus americanus)
Cultivated lobsters represent theoretically one of the most profitable aquaculture species for Massachusetts. At present, only two commercial lobster culturing facilities exist; one in Monterey, CA and one on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries operates a lobster hatchery in Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard for research and enhancement of the natural fishery.
Lobsters have the requisite characteristics to produce a marketable and very profitable commodity; species' toughness for this area, a demand that always exceeds the supply, a (potentially) diminishing wild fishery, a market price that maintains itself at dependably high levels, and little domestic or foreign competition. The primary obstacles to turning lobster aquaculture into an economic realty are the costs of culture and the length of time it takes a lobster to achieve market size.
The Massachusetts State Lobster Hatchery was established in 1949, pursuant to a mandate of the Legislature for a facility designed to promote research into the biology of Homarus americanus and to maintain and enhance Massachusetts wild stock.
The hatchery operates two programs; a research and development facility and a hatchery and stocking program. Between May and August, egg-bearing female lobsters ("eggers") are collected by the Division of Marine Fisheries and commercial fishermen and brought to the hatchery, producing an average of 3,500 eggs/year. The eggs hatch out as first stage larvae, which are free-swimming, cannibalistic, and about the size of a mosquito.
The larvae are held at the hatchery for three molts, until they become fourth stage larvae. At fourth stage, rather than remaining in the water column and on the surface, the juveniles gravitate to the bottom and begin developing legs and claws, freeing them from surface predation and allowing their diet to expand to include hard food sources. This first-to-fourth-stage molting period is a critical period in lobster development; DMF biologists estimate that less than 1/10 of 1% of the young lobsters who hatch initially survive in the natural environment through the fourth molt stage. Hatchery survival rates are much higher, up to 75%.
The reasons for such high juvenile mortality arise from the external environment. First-through-fourth-molt lobster larvae are free-swimming with marine plankton in the water column and on the surface. They are subject to predation pressure from a variety of other organisms and are very vulnerable to toxics in their environment, particularly hydrocarbons produced by boats.
From hatch-out, lobsters are cannibalistic and will freely feed on each other, creating unique culture problems. In the hatchery, predation is controlled and the juveniles are discouraged from cannibalism by being kept physically separated (through the use of continuous bottom injection of water to keep the lobsters apart in the water column) and by being extremely well-fed. The costs associated with maintaining physical separation and diet requirements, along with the length of time till maturation, have prevented lobster farming from being a viable economic possibility for Massachusetts aquaculture.
The average lobster catch over the past five years (1987 - 1992) has exceeded 14.9 million pounds, at a landing value of over 44.6 million dollars (DMF). Lobsters exceed the value of any other fish or shellfish caught in Massachusetts.
A lobster reaches sexual maturity and approximately one pound in weight in seven years in Massachusetts. Research is being conducted to accelerate growth rates and to breed for larger size and quicker development. It has been observed at the DMF hatchery that lobsters maintained in 70 degree F. temperatures all year long take between five and seven years to mature. At this temperature, diet demands increase. Further research is necessary to develop an economically viable food source for lobster culture. Selective breeding is also being conducted to maximize the edible portions of the lobster. For example, it has been observed that lobsters fed hard shell food earlier into their life cycle develop two larger "crusher"claws, rather than the typical crusher claw and smaller, "ripper" claw.
Other Potential Species
Sea Urchin Roe (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) - The sea urchin roe fishery in Maine has been very lucrative in recent years and there is a small scale wild urchin fishery in Massachusetts. The huge demand for urchin roe comes primarily from Japan. Many believe that aquaculture holds great potential for urchin culture. Northeastern University and The Center for Applied Regional Studies received a Fisheries Industry Grant (FIG) in late 1994 to experiment with urchin culture at the Nahant Marine Lab. Initiated by and in collaboration with fishermen in Gloucester, the project will capture and culture urchins for only one to three months, in minimal facilities at sea, in order to increase gonadal content and, thus, ex-vessel value.
Soft Shell Clams (Mya arenaria) - Although the market price for soft shell clams is not as high as that for other bivalves, there is increasing interest and technological advancement in the culture of this species perhaps to be used to fund other projects. The primary reason for this is that Mya arenaria has a shorter growing period (14 months) than quahogs allowing for a faster and greater return on initial investments. Additionally, the available seed is often free when "steamer tents" are employed to catch a natural set. This scenario could be used to raise initial capital to grow the more valued quahogs. Not only can returns be reinvested more quickly, but "tenting" in effect allows aquaculturalists to use a portion of a grant to fund the purchase of the more reliable but expensive and slower growing quahog seed.
Atlantic clams/surf clams (Spisula solidissimia) - Surf clam culture is being experimented with in Maine, CT. and Cape Cod using hatchery seed and hard clam growout technology.
Tautog (Tautoga onitis) - Tautog is a native groundfish with white meat which commonly occurs in rocky nearshore waters. Although not cultured commercially at this time, tautog experimentation is occurring at the research level on the Cape.
Striped bass (Morone saxatilis), Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), Sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus), Atlantic wolffish (Anarhichas lupus), Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), and Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) are all being cultured in the laboratory in the region and some are beginning to be cultured commercially.
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Published: September 1995