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NOAA’s Contributions to Progress in Aquaculture Highlighted in Fisheries Magazine

Aquaculture is increasingly recognized for its role in providing safe, sustainable seafood, contributing to commercial and recreational fisheries, and supporting healthy ocean populations and ecosystems. NOAA experts have made tremendous contributions in this field, excelling in every aspect of the science and research – from hatchery systems and technology development to stock enhancement and habitat restoration techniques. NOAA contributions to this field are in the spotlight again this month with the publication of an aquaculture-focused November issue of Fisheries magazine.

“These are just some of the wide range of articles focused on the latest findings and technology advances,” says Dr. Michael Rubino, Director of the NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Aquaculture. “Each conveys the important role aquaculture has to play in the United States.”

Coastal net pens in Maine. Picture: NOAA.

A peer-reviewed publication of the American Fisheries Society, the journal features several articles authored by current and former NOAA experts and researchers and their collaborators across federal and state agencies, tribes, and academia . Featured researchers include Mike Rust and Kevin Amos from NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Aquaculture and Thomas Flagg from the NOAA Fisheries' Northwest Fisheries Science Center.  

Highlights from the issue include an article contributed by Mike Rust, the Science Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Aquaculture. Rust is lead author on the article outlining advances in the U.S. net-pen aquaculture sector, particularly in the farmed Salmon industry. The article analyzes the scientific and technological advances made in the past 40 years of U.S. marine fish farming. These advances, many led or supported by NOAA research, have improved resource efficiency, such as the amount of fish oil and fish meal in feeds, and have reduced environmental impacts including nutrient discharge, fish disease, antibiotic use, and fish escapes. “Technological progress, better monitoring, modeling of key processes and adaptive oversight of the U.S. net-pen aquaculture industry have resulted in sustainable, affordable and domestically produced seafood,” says Rust. Read the full article here.

Atlantic salmon farmed in Washington State. Picture: NOAA.
Another article, led by Kevin Amos of the Office of Aquaculture, discusses the rapid and robust U.S. response to unconfirmed reports in 2011of infectious salmon anemia virus (ISAV) in western Canadian wild sockeye salmon in British Columbia. ISAV has caused mortalities in Atlantic salmon farms in Europe and Chile, totaling billions of dollars in losses, but has never been detected in Pacific salmon populations. Concerned with the potential of ISAV being found in wild salmon and spreading to other salmon populations, farmed or wild, a federal task force worked with local, state, and tribal fishery management entities and private fish hatchery and fish farming companies in Alaska and Washington to respond to the ISAV reports. Enhanced surveillance of salmon populations, optimized ISAV testing, and analysis of historical data detected no ISAV in Alaska and Washington. “Close collaboration and effective communication between all parties was essential to ensure the best management decisions were made to protect wild and cultured aquatic resources,” conclude the authors. Access the article here.
Manchester Research Station broodstock facility. Picture: NOAA.

A third featured article focuses on the success of recovering the endangered Snake River sockeye salmon using aquaculture technology. A 20-year hatchery-based captive broodstock program has preserved population genetics while rebuilding the endangered salmon population. The program additionally pioneered fish culturing techniques to rear sockeye salmon. “The genetic focus of the program and adherence to conservation aquaculture has enabled retention of 95 percent of original founding genetic variability,” the authors state. Snake River sockeye salmon spawned naturally by hatchery-produced parents are now returning in high enough numbers for the species to potentially sustain itself in the wild again in the future. The full article is available here.

“Aquaculture is one of a range of technologies that can be used to rebuild wild stocks and provide seafood, but it needs to be done in harmony with nature,” says Rubino, “These articles are great examples of that, the progress that’s been made in aquaculture, and the contributions of NOAA’s world-class researchers.”