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Nov. 28, 2002, Gazette

Fresh seafood on your plate

Photo by Laura Halfyard
This year's group of aquaculture students as they begin their field studies and a career in aquaculture: (standing, L-R) Norm Penton, Craig Mercer, Brad Burry, Instructor Keith Rideout, Dave Stirling and Meghan Penney. (Sitting, L-R) Bill Walsh, Ariane Leduc, Corinne Conway and Rob Smith; missing from photo Anne Kellett.

If you've been buying salmon, mussels, catfish, shrimp, tilapia and even some cod, then you've probably been enjoying the benefits of a growing aquaculture industry. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that world aquaculture production is about 40 million tonnes, accounting for about 30 per cent of the total world fisheries and expecting to increase to 50 per cent by the year 2010. Annual aquaculture production in Canada is valued at about $700 million farm-gate sales, over $1 billion in total value and employs over 14,000 people.

Recently the Marine Institute's aquaculture faculty and the new crop of Advanced Diploma in Aquaculture program students participated in the annual Aquaculture Association of Canada (AAC) conference, held in Charlottetown, PEI. About 570 people attended Aquaculture Canada 2002, participating in tours of finfish, shellfish and research facilities, as well as concurrent sessions on various aquaculture topics. This year's conference featured an international mussel forum, which was coordinated by Cyr Couturier, a Marine Institute aquaculture instructor and mollusc researcher, who also wore the hat of president of AAC for the past two years.

The Marine Institute's School of Fisheries led a large contingent to the conference. Cyr Couturier, Dr. Jay Parsons, Alistair Struthers and M.Sc. student Joanne Harding immersed themselves in the shellfish sessions, giving presentations on stress indicators in blue mussels in relation to processing and post-harvesting storage, and mussel species differences. Sessions on mussel growing, harvesting, and processing technology highlighted the issues of biology, food science, engineering and marketing.

Laura Halfyard and Dr. Duane Barker, also of the Marine Institute, delved into the new species and finfish health issues related to marine species, such as cod and wolffish. Commercial companies that traditionally cultured salmonids (salmon, steelhead, trout) are diversifying their operations to include white fleshed finfish species, which have high acceptance and market value. This opens the door in Newfoundland for the culture of cold-water marine species.

Since the conference was hosted at the beginning of the semester and close to Newfoundland, students in the advanced diploma and M.Sc. (aquaculture) programs got the opportunity to attend the sessions. On the drive to the conference, they visited various aquaculture sites in Newfoundland. While at the conference they attended sessions, provided audio-visual assistance to speakers and got opportunities to interact with potential future employers.

The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) and the Office of the Commissioner for Aquaculture Development (OCAD-DFO) have indicated that with the growth of the Canadian aquaculture industry, employment opportunities and training are expected to increase. The Marine Institute's School of Fisheries is working on new aquaculture training initiatives and David Bonnell, head of the school, attended the conference to meet with representatives of other Canadian education institutes and the aquaculture industry.

Aquaculture training in the advanced diploma, M.Sc. and PhD programs are banner programs of MI and MUN, but other training is being developed to meet industry needs.

If Canada is to contribute to global demands for aquaculture products, then training and employment need to be closely linked. Aquaculture provides opportunities for employment in rural communities, allows young people to remain connected to the fishery in a new way, and involves new technologies, science and business. In promoting the growth of Newfoundland's aquaculture industry, the Marine Institute continues to foster education, research and industry activities.