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Archived – Integrated aquaculture systems to be tested on commercial scale at BC site

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Is it possible to rear commercial quantities of several marketable seafoods on fish waste and sunshine within a full-scale finfish net pen operation? If the “devil is in the details”, work now underway in BC is answering some of the crucial questions around commercial scale development of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) systems, or what team leader Dr. Steve Cross of Kyuquot SEAFoods Ltd. calls Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture (SEA).

Over the past two years a study funded by DFO‘s Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP) has been investigating the feasibility of a full-scale sablefish/ sea cucumber/ sea urchin/ shellfish/ kelp operation, with a focus on three seminal questions: 1) Can sea cucumbers effectively use the settled waste below net pens, via an infrastructure that is functionally independent from the finfish operation? 2) Can modifications be made to steel cages to accommodate more range of depth for shellfish than is possible with traditional wooden rafts? 3) Can kelp seed be set throughout the year to ensure consistent, adequate interception of dissolved nutrients and continuous, commercially viable production? Answers from these lines of investigation, according to Cross, will determine critical details of the system’s design and operation, and allow SEA systems to be more adaptable.

With a grant from DFO-ACRDP, and co-funding from Kyuquot Seafoods Ltd. of Courtney, BC, Dr. Steve Cross, and Drs. Chris Pearce and Lucy Hannah of DFO are concluding preliminary studies on sea cucumbers. They have engineered and built a prototype movable tramway system to service shellfish lines suspended within fish cage superstructures, and designed and tested submergible culture trays that can be positioned beneath net pens, and operated without interfering with the pens.

According to Cross, preliminary results strongly indicate that sea cucumbers will utilize waste deposits below fish pens as a food source, and do not appear to accumulate heavy metals or other trace contaminants. Sea cage modifications developed during the study will facilitate simultaneous culture of more than one type of shellfish (e.g., mussels near the surface, scallops at depths up to 15 m.). Timing of kelp seedling development can be controlled to allow year-round seeding and harvest.

A site in Kyuquot Sound, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, will be the proving ground for both equipment and grow-out protocols based in part on the results of this work, and will act as an ongoing test site for future research and development. It is the first multi-trophic SEA site to be approved in BC. Other IMTA sites exist in New Brunswick on the East Coast.
Duration: Apr ’07 – Jun ‘09
Funded by DFO-ACRDP. Co-funded by: Kyuquot SEAFoods Ltd.
Project team: Steven Cross (Kyuquot SEAFoods Ltd. and U Vic), Chris Pearce (DFO), Lucy Hannah (U Vic), Nathan Blasco (U Vic).
For more information contact: Steve Cross (

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