12 Oct 2018

Farmed fish research centre opens at Nelson's Cawthron Institute

5:21 am on 12 October 2018

A new research centre at Nelson's Cawthron Institute aims to improve the resilience and productivity of farmed fish.

Cawthron Aquaculture Park

Cawthron Aquaculture Park Photo: Supplied / Cawthron Institute

The $8 million addition to the Cawthron's aquaculture park was launched yesterday.

The Finfish Research Centre will focus on selective breeding and how fish might adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Cawthron Institute aquaculture group manager Dr Serean Adams said the new centre will enable improved stock management, breeding and husbandry and support the development and growth of the aquaculture industry.

Senior aquaculture scientist Dr Jane Symonds said it would also conduct research for the aquaculture industry, and help them advance research already underway.

"It really expands our capability to do large-scale research. We've been doing salmon research on the site for a few years now, but this will expand that with more tanks and more environmental control.

"We can look at four different temperatures at the same time for example, and we can test in fresh water and in salt water," Dr Symonds said.

Dr Symonds said the research applied to areas wider than the Marlborough Sounds, which had experienced warmer than usual water temperatures in recent years.

"We're working with all the industry in the South Island, from Stewart Island to the Marlborough Sounds. They have unique temperature ranges so it's also interesting to look at colder temperatures as well as warmer temperatures."

The research centre was fully funded by the Cawthron, but no direct support had come from the industry.

Dr Symonds said the industry did, however, play a key role in its development.

"It's been a journey with the industry - we have an industry advisory group and all the major salmon farmers are involved, and the feed companies. We meet every six months or so to revisit what we're doing and show them what we're doing and get their input.

"We learn about their priorities and answer some of their key questions, and provide solutions and knowledge."

Dr Adams said feed was the largest cost of farming fish so knowledge about food conversion efficiency and the underlying biological processes that determined it was "extremely important."

Dr Symonds said the new centre would draw on the expertise spread across Cawthron's more than 200 employees, but would have a dedicated team of specialists, including international collaborators and five new technical staff working at the centre.