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Sustainable farming of lobsters

by Associate Professor Greg Smith, University of Tasmania, Director of the ARC Research Hub for Commercial Development of Rock Lobster Culture Systems at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS)

piny lobsters, also known as rock lobsters in Australia and New Zealand, are one of the few high value marine species that are yet to be cultured in commercial hatcheries. The appeal of culturing spiny lobsters is due to favourable market attributes including the fresh product’s high value in the Asian market, increasing product demand and the static nature of current wild fishery. Research into the biology of spiny lobsters is not new, with initial propagation studies undertaken in Japan in the 1800s. The larval phase of up to seven species was completed in Japanese laboratories between 1960 and 2000. Spiny lobster propagation research has since been undertaken in a number of countries including Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, India, America, Mexico and England. For the last two decades, larval propagation research has been focused in Australia and in recent years at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), in Hobart. Australian lobster research has had long-term government support through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), the Tasmanian Government, the Australian Research Council (ARC) and private equity. The current research programme at IMAS focuses on commercialisation of the hatchery technology supported by an ARC grant of US$5 million through the Industrial Transformation Research Program. The ARC funding targets

collaborative research between industry partners and Australia’s best researchers. The ARC Research Hub for Commercial Development of Spiny Lobster Culture Systems is a collaboration with the University of Tasmania, University of Auckland (New Zealand), University of the Sunshine Coast, and Australian industry partner Plastic Fabrications Group. The research programme is supported by the Tasmanian Government through the Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration Agreement. While there have been challenges to overcome in the hatchery production of seed stock, the grow out sector has been established since the 1990s, primarily in Vietnam, with some recent activity in other countries in the region including Indonesia. Despite the larval phase of many species of spiny lobster being completed in research laboratories, until recently, there has been a failure to translate the small-scale research success into commercial processes. As a result of there being no hatchery production of spiny lobsters seed stock, aquaculture is based on the collection of wild seed stock. The larval cycle of spiny lobsters is protracted; typically females mate in inshore waters and carry a fertilised bundle of eggs externally attached under their tail. While attached to the female the eggs develop for a period of between weeks and months, depending on the species, and then hatch as underdeveloped larvae (phyllosoma). To sustain a static population, spiny lobsters focus their reproductive energy in the investment of large numbers of offspring. In the wild, each breeding female will hatch millions of phyllosoma, but with a long larval duration, small numbers

32 | July 2017 - International Aquafeed

Jul 2017 - International Aquafeed magazine