26th Milford Aquaculture Seminar
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May 02 2007 


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Gregg Rivara, right (Cornell Cooperative Extension) with other volunteers at poster session, shucking oysters donated by Frank Flower Shellfish Company. NOAA/NEFSC photo.

R. Mike Patricio (Cornell Cooperative Extension) presents his poster describing Southold Project in Aquaculture (SPAT) activities in Long Island Sound, NY. NOAA/NEFSC photo.

Brian Bowes (Aquaculture Supply Inc.) and Robert Hillman (Batelle Marine Laboratories) at the registration table. NOAA/NEFSC photo.
The Milford Aquaculture Seminar  

By Teri L. Frady

For 26 years, the NEFSC Milford Laboratory has convened an annual aquaculture seminar, and staffer Walter Blogoslawski has chaired them all.

“The very first meeting was in 1975,” he said in a recent interview with The Ffiles. “Nine aquaculture industry people came to the lab asking how to solve a disease problem that was in Long Island Sound hatcheries.” Six scientists met with the culturists. “That’s how the whole thing was born.”

Blogoslawski has worked at the Milford Lab for 35 years on bacterial diseases that adversely affect shellfish survival both in hatcheries and in the wild. He is the author of 55 publications and “a few book edits” that include the complete collected abstracts of the Milford Aquaculture Seminar. The meeting was originally called the Shellfish Hatchery Workshop. In 1986 it became the Milford Shellfish Biology Seminar, and in 1993 was renamed the Milford Aquaculture Seminar.

At the end of February, just over two-and-a-half decades later, the 26th Milford Aquaculture Seminar drew more than 150 aquaculturists and researchers for three days of posters and presentations. Participants hailed from 13 states, 5 countries, 19 universities, at least 16 aquaculture companies, 3 secondary schools, several parts of NOAA, and a variety of state and federal governmental labs, institutes, and departments.

To Ronald Goldberg, who currently leads the NEFSC Aquaculture and Enhancement Division, the premise behind the seminar hasn’t changed much over the years. “Historically, it was a way for lab researchers to share their findings with the shellfish growing industry. Over the years it has just grown to include more academic researchers, people from government, regulators, anyone who has an interest in shellfish aquaculture.”

“Still, it’s all very relaxed,” said Blogoslawski. “If someone wants to chime in during a presentation, or ask a question, we can examine the issue right there in detail.”

The core agenda is structured around long-term research strengths at the Milford Laboratory: animal nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, animal husbandry, and genetics relative to the culture of shellfish and, more recently, finfish. “Essentially focusing on how to be more efficient at producing healthy animals,” as Blogoslawski described it."


It’s not Just What to Feed,
but When to Feed It

Two candidates for culture, the sea scallop (above) and the bay scallop (right), have important differences in nutritional requirements early in life. Sea scallop photo by Dann Blackwood, USGS, Woods Hole, MA; bay scallop photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA/NMFS Narragansett, RI.

At the 26th Milford Aquaculture Seminar, NEFSC Milford researcher Lisa Milke presented her work on the digestive activity of very young sea scallops and bay scallops. “People are trying to come up with better diets for these scallops,” said Milke. “There is a lot of information on the biochemical composition of a diet that’s good for the animals, but a good diet doesn’t matter much if the animals can’t digest it.”

Milke and her colleagues V. Monica Bricelj and Neil W. Ross from the Institute for Marine Biosciences in Halifax, N.S., decided to look at different enzymes -- proteins that break down the food -- in young animals and how enzyme activity might change as the animals grow to post-larval sizes. “If we could identify different enzyme activity at the different morphological stages, we might be able to develop diets specifically for each of those stages, and improve growth and survival,” said Milke.

The study used both bay and sea scallops because of their different biology but similar viability issues in early rearing stages. The two have different life histories -- sea scallops develop more slowly -- and each is adapted to a different environment: colder, deeper water for sea scallops and warmer, shallower water for bay scallops. Also, poor growth and survival of postlarval scallops of both species is often observed in hatcheries.

“Especially among sea scallops there is really high mortality in the early stages. If we want to reduce those losses, improving survival during the early transition period is fairly critical,” said Milke.

The study showed some significant differences between the species, but those differences varied with the enzyme. “Those that digest lipids and proteins show similar patterns over the scallops’ development. If we look at individual enzymes that break down different types of carbohydrates, we see differences between the two species, and in the amount of enzyme activity during development,” said Milke.

By combining what’s known about the best composition for diets with more knowledge about what’s most digestible by very young scallops during well-documented growth stages, feeds can be improved. Better nutrition could well mean that a larger proportion of hatchery-reared scallops survive to be marketable adults.

Milke’s findings will also be presented this month at the 98th annual meeting of the National Shellfisheries Association.

The seminar has expanded enough now that there are special topics as well. This year, for example, a joint session on juvenile oyster disease was sponsored by two other NOAA components: the National Sea Grant Office and the National Ocean Service. Juvenile oyster disease was first detected in the early 1990s, and most research has focused on its cause and development of oyster strains that are resistant to it.

“Jay Lewis, a molluscan shellfish disease researcher from NOAA’s Cooperative Oxford Laboratory and Cheryl Woodley from NOAA’s Hollings Marine Laboratory had the idea,” said Goldberg. “They wanted to get researchers who had worked on juvenile oyster disease together with commercial growers.”

“They wanted people in the shellfish culture industry to hear what they had found out about the disease,” said Blogoslawski. “Since we would have 20 to 30 shellfish companies at the meeting as well as a lot of researchers, it was a perfect venue.” At the session, panelists concluded that a bacterium, Roseovarius crassostreae, is likely causing the disease.

There are many examples of practical improvements in aquaculture businesses that have come about owing to something learned at the Milford Aquaculture Seminar. One of the best, said Blogoslawski, was from 1985. “A company on Long Island, Frank M. Flower and Sons, ran into a naturally occurring disease called MSX that killed their entire oyster crop. Because they had only one crop, I suggested to them that it might be best to grow clams.”

The growers had their doubts about the plan since clams weren’t worth as much as oysters. “They went ahead with it,” said Blogoslawski, “and found that they could profitably grow clams as a second crop until the disease problem abated. That was very valuable for that company and helped keep them in business.”

Goldberg said the seminar’s format is its most enduring and valuable characteristic. “It serves as forum in the true sense of the word. It brings together people with a common interest in productive and sometimes surprising ways.” For example, some of the smaller independent growers formed the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association during the 22nd Milford Aquaculture Seminar in 2002.

Nothing succeeds like success, it’s said, and looking ahead Blogoslawski and Goldberg see more of that on the horizon for U.S. aquaculturists. “Shellfish aquaculture is already a success,” said Blogoslawski. “Many companies are involved in it and they are making money.”

“Finfish culture also has a bright future,” said Goldberg, “especially offshore cage culture, which is an emerging capability. I think it will be very important in the future. But even if the culturing is done offshore, there will still be a need for the kind of hatcheries we work with to provide the seed animals.”

In June of last year, the National Offshore Aquaculture Act was introduced in the Senate. Hearings on offshore aquaculture are scheduled before Senate Commerce Committee's National Ocean Policy Study Subcommittee on April 6.

Abstracts from the 26th Milford Aquaculture Seminar will be published in Vol. 25(2) of The Journal of Shellfish Research, due out in August 2006. The 27th Milford Aquaculture Seminar will itself be a special session at the Northeast Aquaculture Conference and Exposition set for this coming December in Mystic, Conn.

Posted March 31, 2006  

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(File Modified Feb. 16 2007)