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$3.3M awarded for halibut aquaculture research partnership


Fredericton, NB – A research project to determine the profitability of farming halibut in the Bay of Fundy is being provided with $3.3 million in funding. To be carried out by a partnership between Canadian Halibut and various government and academic experts, 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 and identify new ways to encourage further scientific collaborations and build new economic opportunities.

Funding is being provided by the federal government, New Brunswicks provincial government, AquaNet (a Network of Centres of Excellence in aquaculture that is hosted by Memorial University, St John’s, NL) and the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation. The actual research will be conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the University of New Brunswick and the University of Prince Edward Islands Atlantic Veterinary College.

Dr Tillmann Benfey at the University of New Brunswick is the lead researcher, and is collaborating with Debbie Martin-Robichaud, a researcher with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). The main objective of their work, the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), 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 effect of sex (male versus female) on the growth of the halibut and the effects of sexual maturation on growth.

The ACRDP portion of the project will be led by DFO’s Saint 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.

Also with the University of New Brunswick, a marketing study will be completed 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 Dr Neil Ridler of UNB Saint John.

At the University of Prince Edward Islands Atlantic Veterinary College, Dr 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. Approximately 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.

The outcomes 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, says David Alward, New Brunswicks minister of the department of agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture. 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.