News & Events

USDA Approves CTSA FY17 Plan of Work, New Projects Set to Begin Shortly

Jun 22, 2018

The USDA recently approved the FY2017 Plan of Work, which includes funding for eight new projects and the continuation of the CTSA Information Services project.

The overall goals of the project “Developing Bivalve Farming in Hawaii, Years 6 to 8” are to develop methods to guide efforts to produce improved lines of tetraploid and triploid oysters and determine whether simple carbohydrate-based microparticulate diets represent a viable means of reducing reliance on large-scale microalgae production for land-based oyster fattening and similar systems. Oyster farms around the world increasingly depend on genetically selected triploid seed, if it can be obtained. The Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, is the most commonly farmed oyster and most national industries now rely on this species. Triploids are preferred due to faster growth rates but most importantly, because they can be harvested during warm water months when diploids are either spawning or are flaccid after spawning. New Hawai`i farms will also depend on triploids, and also require larger seed since most do not have nurseries. These needs have directed the PACRC collaborative research with partners on improving hatchery and nursery methods, as well as breeding and polyploid development efforts. Another impediment to further developing bivalve culture in Hawai`i, but also increasingly in other areas is the lack of land-based systems for oyster growout.  While the concept of land-based systems for bivalve growout is not new, further research and development is required to make these less dependent on costly and often unreliable microalgae production, among other issues. These two areas of work will contribute significantly to moving oyster culture forward, not only in Hawai`i, but also at a national level. Improving the understanding of polyploid genetics and the consequences of various approaches to breeding will prevent costly mistakes in breeding and farming programs. It may also provide insights into still unknown areas of oyster biology such as control of sexual differentiation and reproductive strategies. Increasing options for land-based production systems through partial replacement of microalgae as the sole feed source will also benefit nearly all farmers who use some version of a land-based system (e. g. conditioning systems, remote setting operations) and present new options to those who wish to engage in bivalve farming of any kind, particularly in Hawai`i.

The new project “Aquaculture Workshop at Oceanic Institute for Students of Waianae High School’s Aquaculture Program, Years 1 and 2” will aim to inspire students to consider a career in aquaculture or related field and provide them with information about how educational choices can help them fulfill those career aspirations. According to an article in Aquaculture North America (Orlowski, Aaron 2017), the aquaculture industry faces, among other things, a critical “shortage of educated, skilled workers.” When coupled with an aging existing workforce, the lack of new workers further threatens the United States’ ability to take advantage of the opportunities the growth of the industry presents. The project will help with the shortage of educated and skilled workers by encouraging local students to pursue science education, consider jobs in the aquaculture industry, and/or contribute to the research needed to advance the industry in the US. Through this project the WHS MSLC students will participate in two annual three-day workshops at OI, one in 2019 and one in 2020. In year 2, the workshop will be opened up to students from other schools that have the same aquaculture background as the WHS MSLC students up to a maximum of 45 total participants. In addition, the project will serve as a platform for teaching next-generation aquafarmers science-based solutions to challenges facing the aquaculture industry today and tomorrow.

The goal of the project “Opihi Aquaculture, Years 5 and 6: Improving Hatchery Technology and Production” is to successfully rear ‘opihi for aquaculture production. The aquaculture of ‘opihi ‘alinalina, the yellowfoot limpet Cellana sandwicensis, has been in research and development phase for approximately 4 years under CTSA. Of the three Hawaiian limpets (Cellana spp.), yellowfoot limpet is most abundant on the market due to consumer preferences, however, this does not necessarily mean they are most abundant in the wild. In fact, finding yellowfoot limpet along Oahu’s intertidal shoreline is rare, and populations are seemingly unable to rebound with current management and commercial/recreational pressures. The research group’s current efforts in Opihi aquaculture research have engineered an aquaculture system that maintains necessary intertidal stimulus (sea spray), formulated feeds that support good, long-term growth, and the development of captive maturation, spawning, and larval rearing methodologies. These recent improvements have increased the capacity to close the life cycle of ‘opihi. The current project will conduct trials in an effort to improve hatchery technology and increase juvenile survival rate. With adjustments in settlement tank design, researchers are confident that survival of the very first captive bred, F1 generation is well within reach. Moreover, the group will determine grow-out time to market size and produce a tangle business plan for economic evaluation. The completed manual for yellowfoot limpet production will also be available to persons interested in adopting this technology, with transfer of technology through coordinated workshops, as proposed.

The overall goal of the project “A Shrimp Disease Diagnostic Laboratory for Hawaii” is to create a USDA-approved laboratory to conduct testing for the thirteen current diseases (OIE-listed and other) that shrimp broodstock producers are required to test for. Hawaii’s shrimp producers export specific-pathogen-free (SPF) broodstock valued at over $20 million each year. The receiving countries require that the health-status of these shrimp be documented by testing using methods approved by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Currently, there is only one laboratory located on the mainland that can perform this type of official testing, which is an inherent vulnerability of the current system that could result in delayed testing and possible disruption in services. This project proposes to remedy this by establishing a laboratory in Hawaii that can perform the necessary testing to meet the needs of shrimp broodstock exporters. This laboratory will be capable of a quicker turnaround time than the mainland laboratory due to shorter shipping time and will be responsive to the individual needs of the submitters. Upon receiving all necessary approvals, this laboratory will provide official testing for the OIE-listed shrimp diseases on a user-fee basis to Hawaii shrimp producers. This laboratory will also have the ability to develop additional testing capabilities to respond to the changing needs of shrimp exporters and the emergence of new shrimp pathogens. Shrimp producers in Hawaii will have access to a reliable local laboratory that is committed to meeting their needs. The goal is to have this laboratory be financially-self-sustaining after 12 months of CTSA support and to be able to provide reliable, accurate, and timely service to the Hawaii shrimp broodstock industry, thereby safeguarding the industry’s continued success.

In a different lab at the University of Hawaii, the project “Improving Cost-effectiveness of Producing Local Aquatic Feed from Papaya Fruit Wastes via Innovative Bioprocessing, Years 1 and 2” will conduct a small-scale feasibility study of enriching papaya fruit wastes with protein-rich yeast and autolysate derived from the yeast, as protein/amino acid supplements in local aquaculture feed, using a low-cost semi-solid state fermentation method. Availability of affordable feed is a major challenge facing regional aquaculture development. Solutions to this challenge will likely come from using locallyavailable ingredients. One of the most costly ingredients in aquaculture feed is protein. The proposed research seeks to overcome technical bottlenecks that hamper cost-effective utilization of papaya culls, an abundant local agricultural byproduct, for producing nutritional single cell proteins as a renewable protein source to replace costly conventional protein ingredients in aquaculture feed like fishmeal and soymeal. The main questions researchers would like to answer are the following: First, what will be required for minimum processing of the papaya fruit culls to support active yeast growth? Second, how much yeast biomass and protein can be produced using minimally processed papaya culls as carbon source under semi-SSF after optimization? Third, will the yeast/papaya biomass and yeast autolysate produced under the proposed condition serve as useful protein ingredients/supplements in aquaculture feed? The research outcomes will benefit CTSA regional aquaculture by lowering feed costs and providing a sustainable source of essential nutritional and beneficial feed supplements, while reducing agro wastes.

The overall goal of the project “Improving the commercial aquaculture feasibility for Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens): Resolving early bottlenecks to improve culture yield, Years 1 to 3” is to improve the survival of Yellow Tang larvae during critical periods in development in an effort to increase the final yield of juveniles produced. Specifically, the high mortality at bottlenecks occurring around Day 7 and between Days 30-40 post-hatch will be addressed.  If successful, this improved production efficiency should lead to commercial production of this, and related, marine ornamental species. Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) is the most heavily collected reef species from Hawaii with nearly 300,000 fish being removed from reefs annually for the aquarium trade. Recent legislation in Hawaii has temporally suspended the collection of aquarium species, pending the completion of a comprehensive environmental impact study. Therefore, this highly popular, and iconic, species will (at least for the foreseeable future) need to be obtained from aquacultured sources. For the first time, the culture of Yellow Tang was shown to be technically possible, and this achievement provided significant hope that many other reef species might also be able to be cultured using similar methods.  Over the past two years, this has indeed been shown to be the case, with dozens of new species being cultured by facilities around the world owing in large part to the technical achievements (the barriers being broken down) by OI. Through prior research, OI has identified key bottlenecks to overcome in an effort to maximize the likelihood of commercial adoption. This project will focus on improving the survival of Yellow Tang larvae to day 7 post hatch (first bottleneck) as well as increase survival post flexion (day 30-40 post hatch), as these two periods represent the highest cumulative mortality during culture. By focusing our efforts on reducing mortality at these specific stages, significant improvement in final yield of juveniles will be achieved, thus greatly improving overall production efficiency. 

In a different department at Oceanic Institute, the project “Culture of a Local Marine Polychaete, Marphysa sanguinea, for Use as a Shrimp Maturation Feed, Years 3 and 4” will aim to further the prospects of commercial M. sanguinea production for use as a shrimp maturation feed. It is estimated that >10,000 kg of frozen marine polychaetes are imported into Hawaii annually to support shrimp breeding activities (cost >$400,000 per year). The primary sources are wild-caught Glycera dibranchiata from Maine, USA (~$50/kg including freight) and cultured Nereis virens from the Netherlands (cost ~$33/kg). Major shrimp farms in Asia and Central America typically use live wild-caught and/or locally cultured polychaetes. These worms are much cheaper, but are not a viable alternative to imported, frozen worms for Hawaii hatcheries due to biosecurity risks posed by viral pathogens. With funding from CTSA, Oceanic Institute of Hawaii Pacific University (OI) researchers have collected and evaluated several local polychaete species for their aquaculture potential and use as a shrimp maturation feed. M. sanguinea was selected for culture based on its large size (up to 25 cm), high palatability to P. vannamei broodstock, high survival in culture, and its acceptable to excellent biochemical composition (with regards to shrimp nutrition/maturation). Basic culture techniques have been developed and culture densities of 4,000-13,000 worms/m3 have been achieved. Furthermore, a large captive breeding population, which is free of all major shrimp pathogens, is currently being maintained at OI. This new project will continue funding to (1) demonstrate commercial-scale production of M. sanguinea, (2) document shrimp reproductive performance when fed M. sanguinea and compare this performance to shrimp reproductive performance when fed frozen, imported worms, (3) further develop culture techniques for this species, and (4) to disseminate research findings to support future research and/or commercialization efforts.

The overall goal of the project “Development of a Sustainable Aquaculture and Fishery for the Mangrove Crab Scylla serrata Forskal, Years 4 and 5” is to improve hatchery production of mangrove crabs in Palau. The mangrove crab is considered a delicacy in most of the small island countries like Palau, however, becoming depleted due to years of overharvesting to satisfy continually increasing demands from tourism and population growth. Developing aquaculture for mangrove crab has been considered a solution to enhance the wild population and provide a continuous supply to the local market. Success in the hatchery production of crablets has been demonstrated recently, however, despite of this development, mangrove crab farming in Palau has not yet been established. This is due to the inconsistent production and limited supply of juveniles that farmers needed to stock in their grow-out pens and cages. Some of the problems that were encountered in the seed production of mangrove crabs include the high mortality that occurs prior to molting into megalopa stage - also known as molting death syndrome (MDS), low survival rate from megalopae to instar stage, and high cannibalism of crablets during the nursery phase. Improving the hatchery technique by developing a nutritional-balanced feeding protocol and minimizing the cannibalistic behavior of the crablets in the nursery systems by providing appropriate shelters and proper nutrition are thought to improve the production of mangrove crab juveniles for aquaculture. The aim of this project is to improve the hatchery and nursery culture technology for the mangrove crabs and to deliver a consistent production of 5,000 crablets per production unit (1.5 x 5m tank).