1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
Establish an experimental aquaculture facility in the Azores, with an initial focus on abalone production. The long term goal of this research center will be to develop knowledge and technology for other potential aquaculture species. This is supported under the Azores Cooperative Initiatives Program (ACIP), as jointly decided in May 2003 by the ACIP Technical Working Group held by the United States Government and the Regional Government of the Azores. ACIP, or rather the requirement to engage in cooperative initiatives with the Azores, Portugal, is mandated in the 1995 US-Portugal Agreement on Cooperation and Defense and further defined in the Final Minute to that agreement. ACIP was created and has been implemented through Department of Defense (DOD) financial resources and relationships with civilian federal agencies and other non-governmental institutions as part of the U.S Government’s commitment to the agreement. DOD has requested and funded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) to serve as the lead civilian agency and facilitator for ACIP.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Recent worries about the fishing and wild resources sustainability have re-launched the discussion around the potential of aquaculture in the Region, as a way of generating economical and social development, and as a productive activity complementing the traditional fisheries. The recent workshop on “Developing a Sustainable Aquaculture Industry in the Azores” (Horta – June 2008) has contributed to this discussion and with few constrains, received support from social (Azorean fishermen organizations/associations and some local business people wanting to start the activity), political (both local and regional) and institutional (IMAR/DOP-UAç) organizations. In order to attain the objective mentioned above, the IMAR PI and scientific staff will take the following steps from September 2008- Sep 2010: a) By March/April of 2009 the laboratory will be planned/designed involving technical consultancy. The plan will be presented to appropriate Regional authorities and U.S. cooperators for technical advice. The PI will seek to raise the needed funds for its implementation. b) By April/July 2009 a small workshop on the aquaculture of grazing invertebrates (abalone, sea urchins, queen conch etc…) will be organized with the aim of transferring knowledge and technology on local species. c) By December 2009, scientific visits for training of two IMAR researchers (three to six month duration) in leading aquaculture laboratories will be conducted. By early 2010 the laboratory should be functioning with a first pilot experiment on local abalone (Haliotis tuberculata).
3. Progress Report
This report serves to document activities conducted under a specific cooperative agreement between ARS and the University of the Azores, Department of Oceans and Fisheries under the Azores Cooperative Initiatives Program (ACIP). Progress was obtained through email communications over the past year and review of the progress report by the ARS Lead Scientist, Dr. Don Freeman (ARS-SNARC, Stuttgart, AR). An international multi-disciplinary aquaculture consultancy company (Akvaplan-niva) was contracted to undertake the conceptual design of a small experimental aquaculture research facility, using the old university research buildings, expected to be vacant before the end of 2009. The plan is to construct flexible modular research laboratories designed for small scale experiments related to aquaculture. These areas are to be able to hold three independently operating recirculation systems and a variety of tank layout options allowing flexibility in research options from larval production to experiments on grow-out. The facility plan versatility will allow research not only on abalone (prioritized species) but also on other marine invertebrates such as Azorean barnacles (Megabalanus azoricus), limpets (Patella aspera/Patella candei) or seaurchins (e.g. Paracentrotus lividus). The planned facility will also be able to hold different finfish species in the future. The plan also incorporates already existing small research units for cold water corals and hydrothermal vent organisms, as well as supporting services: diving, storage for vessels equipment and workshop, and creates explicit facilities for use by external enterprises. The conceptual plan was submitted to the IMAR/DOP-Univ of Azores Board of Directors for internal discussion and to the ARS cooperator, Dr. Don Freeman, and the Secretariat of Fisheries of the Regional Government for information and feedback. The IMAR PI and one member of the research staff also participated in the 7th International Abalone Symposium (IAS 2009) to acquire knowledge on abalone biology, fisheries and aquaculture. This allowed them to establish contacts with leading scientists in the field, as well as managers, regulators and policy/decision makers ready to support and transfer knowledge for the development of an experimental abalone aquaculture in the Azores. Some basic plans and possible cooperation were established, including Dr. Paul Olin (California Sea Grant Extension, who may spend part of his sabbatical in the Azores), Dr. Christine Paillard (Technopole Brest-Iroise who proposed research on existing species of Abalone), Dr. Maria Toledo and Dr. Geoff Robinson (ICCM – Canaries and Irish aquaculture, respectively, who may help on several aspects of the abalone culture).