Al­ter­na­tive species

Claws for thought

Fish Farmer - - Contents - BY VINCE MCDON­AGH

THE rising price of lob­ster cou­pled with the de­vel­op­ment of new tech­nol­ogy is mak­ing the shell­fish species a promis­ing can­di­date for aqua­cul­ture, a de­tailed new re­port sug­gests. EUMOFA, the Euro­pean Mar­ket Ob­ser­va­tory for Fish­eries and Aqua­cul­ture, said the UK, Nor­way and Ice­land have been ex­per­i­ment­ing with lob­ster farms over a num­ber of years, but had so far failed to reach com­mer­cial lev­els.

How­ever, that sit­u­a­tion was chang­ing, with the breed­ing of ju­ve­nile lob­sters be­ing de­vel­oped in both the United States and Europe, and par­tic­u­larly in ar­eas where wild stocks have de­clined.

World catches of this high value and highly reg­u­lated species are cur­rently around 167,000 tonnes, with a 92 per cent in­crease in Amer­i­can lob­ster (both Canada and the US) and a more mod­est 13 per cent rise in Euro­pean lob­ster since 2007.

Euro­pean lob­ster, said EUMOFA, is much rarer than the Amer­i­can lob­ster and is mostly mar­keted alive.

Amer­i­can lob­ster mainly finds its way into UK and Euro­pean mar­kets dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son, ei­ther frozen, whole, cooked or live.

In Europe, the UK and France were the two coun­tries with the high­est catches, at 79 per cent and 14 per cent re­spec­tively.

But French con­sumers are pay­ing up to five euros per kilo­gram more than their Bri­tish coun­ter­parts. The av­er­age price per kilo in 2016 was €15.73.

‘The main lim­i­ta­tion for lob­ster aqua­cul­ture has been high pro­duc­tion costs due to the du­ra­tion of the pro­duc­tion cy­cle, the de­mand for 18-22 de­grees C wa­ter to get ac­cept­able growth rates, and the need for in­di­vid­ual rear­ing com­part­ments to avoid can­ni­bal­ism and un­even growth rates due to hi­er­ar­chies,’ said the re­port.

The lack of a high qual­ity for­mu­lated feed has also been a lim­it­ing fac­tor. But EUMOFA said that new tech­nol­ogy and the fact that lob­ster bi­ol­ogy is now bet­ter un­der­stood have made it a rel­a­tively easy species to rear in closed cy­cle aqua­cul­ture. Rising prices have also helped.

In ad­di­tion, the aqua­cul­ture of ju­ve­nile lob­sters has been de­vel­oped in both Amer­i­can and Euro­pean regions for seed­ing pur­poses where wild stocks had de­clined.

EUMOFA highlights an ad­di­tional study on the work of a com­pany called Nor­we­gian Lob­ster Farm, which has patented a new farm­ing tech­nol­ogy that in­cor­po­rates all nec­es­sary pre­req­ui­sites for suc­cess­ful and prof­itable cul­ture of plate sized lob­sters.

The re­port said: ‘This ma­jor R&D project was first ini­ti­ated in 2000 by the com­pany with the aim to eval­u­ate the po­ten­tial for com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion of plate sized lob­sters (20cm/300g).

‘All tri­als were con­ducted in small to medium scale in or­der to re­veal and solve the main bot­tle­necks (bi­o­log­i­cal, tech­ni­cal and mar­ket chal­lenges) be­fore com­mer­cial­is­ing.

‘More­over, Nor­we­gian Lob­ster Farm has a sep­a­rate hatch­ery where IV-stage ju­ve­niles are pro­duced from brood­stock care­fully se­lected from vi­tal farm­ing cri­te­ria.

‘The ideal sys­tem for rear­ing lob­sters in­di­vid­u­ally should be rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive to con­struct and op­er­ate; sim­ple to main­tain; based on au­to­matic feed­ing and self-clean­ing of tank and cages; main­tain ideal wa­ter qual­ity con­di­tions; use space in three di­men­sions; enable high den­si­ties; con­serve wa­ter at high tem­per­a­tures; en­sure good sur­vival and per­mit easy ac­cess to the live­stock for in­spec­tion and feed­ing.

‘Amer­i­can re­searchers had re­ported five years ear­lier that no suc­cess­ful at­tempts had been made which in­clude all of these fea­tures into a sin­gle de­sign.

‘Un­til the year 2000, nei­ther com­mer­cial nor R&D ac­tiv­i­ties had been done in Nor­way to de­velop a land based farm­ing con­cept for rais­ing plate sized lob­sters,’ said EUMOFA.

But since then, the Nor­we­gian Lob­ster Farm

has de­vel­oped, tested and doc­u­mented six dif­fer­ent tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing sin­gle trays, stacks of trays, hor­i­zon­tal as well as ver­ti­cal sys­tems, strings of poly­eth­yl­ene, and com­mu­nal rear­ing. The aim of the project was to de­velop cost ef­fec­tive farm­ing so­lu­tions us­ing re­cir­cu­la­tion of heated sea­wa­ter. The re­port adds: ‘As a re­sult of this work, Nor­we­gian Lob­ster Farm has patented a new farm­ing tech­nol­ogy in 23 coun­tries that in­cor­po­rates all nec­es­sary pre­req­ui­sites for suc­cess­ful and prof­itable cul­ture of plate sized lob­sters.

‘This tech­nol­ogy lifts the crus­tacean in­dus­try from 2D to 3D by ef­fec­tively util­is­ing all three di­men­sions in the wa­ter col­umn.’

The sys­tem is based on in­di­vid­ual com­part­ments, in a mod­u­lar de­sign, which can be built up in stages, ac­cord­ing to Nor­way Lob­ster Farm founder and CEO As­b­jorn Drengstig, who pre­sented his tech­nol­ogy to global aqua­cul­ture lead­ers at the Aqua­vi­sion con­fer­ence in Sta­vanger in June last year.

What’s more, the com­pany has de­vel­oped all au­to­mated tech­nolo­gies that now sup­ple­ment most of the pro­ce­dures that pre­vi­ously were de­pen­dent on man­ual labour.

The farm­ing con­cept has been suc­cess­fully tested over the last three years, with the re­sult that the com­pany is now com­mer­cial­is­ing the work and plans to ex­pand its pro­duc­tion up to 20 tonnes an­nu­ally in a new fac­tory on the is­land of Kvit­søy.

‘We’re the only com­pany in the world that has suc­ceeded in clos­ing the value chain for farm­ing lob­sters so there’s a lot of po­ten­tial to de­velop this into an in­dus­try,’ said Drengstig dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion at Aqua­vi­sion.

‘We’re do­ing something no one has ever done, we feel like we’re do­ing something rad­i­cal in the aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try, and we can have lob­ster farms any­where, or mostly any­where, in the world.’

We’re the only com­pany in the world that has suc­ceeded in clos­ing the value lob­sters” chain for farm­ing

Top: Lob­ster Above: As­b­jorn Drengstig Op­po­site: Grilled Lob­ster and veg­eta­bles on plate

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