Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture

$3.3 million announced for halibut aquaculture research (06/08/09)

NB 1073

Aug. 9, 2006

ST. ANDREWS (CNB) - A $3.3-million innovation research project to determine the viability of raising halibut in an aquaculture environment will be undertaken by Canadian Halibut Inc., along with federal, provincial, and academic experts.

(Multimedia)

David Alward, minister of agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, and Greg Thompson, regional minister for New Brunswick, made the announcement today. They were joined by several partners from the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation, AquaNet, Canadian Halibut Inc., the University of New Brunswick, and the University of Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Veterinary College.

"The outcome of this research will form the basis of halibut culture in New Brunswick, and, if shown to be viable, will help diversify the existing salmon aquaculture industry," Alward said. "Diversification is necessary for the long-term stability of the industry, and being innovative in this approach will keep New Brunswick companies on the leading edge of development."

The project research involves the placement of 50,000 juvenile halibut in sea cages to complete a series of performance-based trials over a four-year period, ultimately identifying the profitability of farming halibut in the Bay of Fundy. The research will focus on scientific and economic factors in the commercial farming of halibut.

"The Government of Canada knows that partnerships such as this one are about relationships and vision," Thompson said. "This research project will add to the economic strength of the region and create employment."

Thompson spoke on behalf of the Government of Canada.

"We appreciate the efforts of the various scientific and government agencies to help bring this project to this stage, and we will play our part to ensure its successful conclusion," said George (Skip) Wolf, president of Canadian Halibut Inc.

For further information on Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) programs, visit the ACOA website.

06/08/09

EDITOR'S NOTE: A backgrounder on the research project follows. MEDIA CONTACTS: Jennifer Graham, Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, 506-444-4951; communications branch, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 902-426-3550, e-mail: CommEnquire@mar.dfo-mpo.gc.ca; Gisèle Savoie, ACOA, 506-452-3341; Skip Wolf, Canadian Halibut Inc., 506-755-1203; Joan Atkinson, AquaNet, 709-737-3268; Susan Mesheau, University of New Brunswick, 506-453-4793; Charlotte McCardle, University of Prince Edward Island, 902-566-0533.

Backgrounder

Canadian Halibut Inc. will undertake an innovation research project to determine the profitability of farming halibut in the Bay of Fundy. The project research involves the placement of 50,000 juvenile halibut in sea cages to complete a series of performance-based trials over a four-year period.

Contributing to the long-term sustainability of the aquaculture industry, the project will offer the chance to address challenges, identify new ways to encourage further scientific collaborations, and build new economic opportunities.

Funding

The Government of Canada is investing in the project through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency ($960,000 under the Business Development Program) and through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans ($434,000 under the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program). The Province of New Brunswick is supporting the project through Business New Brunswick ($500,000) and through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture's Total Development Fund ($115,500). AquaNet is providing $225,000 to the project, the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation is providing $93,000, and Canadian Halibut Inc. is providing the remainder.

Research

Research will be conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the University of New Brunswick, and the University of Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Veterinary College. Tillmann Benfey of the University of New Brunswick is the leading researcher on the project, which is being completed in collaboration with the Atlantic Veterinary College and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the University of New Brunswick

Debbie Martin-Robichaud (Department of Fisheries researcher) and Benfey (University of New Brunswick researcher) are collaborating in this study. The main objective of their work will be to determine the optimum size for transferring the juvenile halibut to the sea cages for grow-out. This part of the study will focus on growth rates, feed conversion, survival and behaviour. A second component of the study will investigate the effect of sex (male versus female) on the growth of the halibut, and the effects of sexual maturation on growth.

The principle objectives of the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP) are to determine the optimum size for transferring juvenile halibut to sea cages for grow-out, monitor the health and productivity of individuals, evaluate the impact of vaccines, determine the effect of sex on growth and age/size at the onset of sexual maturation in cage-cultured halibut, and analyse the profitability of the farmed species. To achieve these objectives, Atlantic halibut of three size ranges will be reared in cages for a performance evaluation and disease study. About 50,000 juvenile halibut have been purchased and placed in sea cages to complete performance-based trials. Research will focus on early maturation, growth performance, optimal stocking sizes, fish health, production efficiencies and marketing. Environmental monitoring will also be conducted. The ACRDP portion of the project will be led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada's St. Andrews Biological Station, with collaborators from the University of New Brunswick at Fredericton and Saint John, as well as the University of Prince Edward Island.

The University of New Brunswick will also complete a marketing study on farmed halibut, as well as an analysis of the profitability and economics of growing halibut. This work will be completed under the direction of Neil Ridler of UNB Saint John.

University of Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Veterinary College

Larry Hammell will lead a team of veterinarians and researchers to assess the health and productivity of the halibut and evaluate the effectiveness of vaccines on growth and survival. About 10,000 halibut will be vaccinated with one of three available salmon vaccines, and assessed for their performance on halibut growth, survival and health. Fish health and other health diagnostic work will also be completed on the halibut throughout the duration of the study.

Other agencies critical to this project's support include:

Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation (CCFI)

The CCFI is funded by the Atlantic Innovation Fund. CCFI's role in this initiative is to provide financial support so that key science personnel at UNB and UPEI can lend the expertise necessary to measure the biological and economic information needed to assess the commercial potential for halibut culture.

AquaNet

AquaNet, a network of centres of excellence in aquaculture (1999-2006), is hosted by Memorial University, St. John's, N.L. Its financial support to the project is to help foster a sustainable aquaculture sector in Canada through high-quality research and education.

06/08/09