MASGC Project Impacts

Research quantifies value of ecosystem services of off-bottom oyster farms in the Gulf of Mexico

Relevance:

Documentation of the economic value of ecosystem services of off-bottom oyster farming provides a better understanding of the public benefits of leasing public grounds and waters for private use, increasing public acceptance and allowing regulatory agencies to consider reduction of permit fees to a rate that encourages applications and oyster farm start-ups.

Response:

Sea Grant-funded researchers conducted an exhaustive search of the scientific literature to quantify ecosystem services provided by oyster farming or generate reasonable estimates of ecosystem services from oyster reefs. With these data, Sea Grant-funded researchers performed an economic analysis on two oyster farms in Alabama and Louisiana to estimate the economic value of the ecosystem services provided by off-bottom oyster farming in these areas.

Results:

The marginal economic value per acre of off-bottom long-line aquaculture in terms of recreational and commercial fisheries enhancements was estimated at $1,564 in Alabama and $2,286 in Louisiana. Using the low end of the marginal economic values, the 18 acres of oyster farms in Alabama provides more than $28,152 beyond the $2M in (2016) commercial sales. Scientists presented the results of this work at a meeting of Alabama oyster growers, a meeting of the National Shellfisheries Association and various invited presentations to regional groups. The results were also shared in the electronic newsletter for Alabama and Mississippi oyster farming (“On the Lid”) with over 100 subscribers, and on social media outlets for Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory (e.g., Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). Ecosystem services were explicitly included in the Gulf of Mexico Shellfish Initiative, drafted by the Gulf Oyster Industry Council.  The initiative calls foran ecosystem service approach to drive oyster management. Scientists also shared these results with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the North Florida Aquaculture Association in their efforts to permit off-bottom oyster farms in Mississippi and Florida.

Recap:

Ecosystem services research finds that Alabama oyster farms provide almost $30,000 in ecosytem servcies beyond the value of commerical sales. This research is influencing how permitting decisions are made, and oyster growers are using it as a marketing tool. (2017)

Integrated program expands oyster farming industry in Alabama

Relevance:

The Gulf Coast oyster industry has suffered a number of setbacks, both natural and manmade, that are challenging an industry built around inexpensive, plentiful oysters. Off-bottom oyster farming for the high-value, half-shell niche market provides an opportunity for Gulf residents to create jobs, provide high-quality oysters for the marketplace and improve the environment.

Response:

Between 2010 and 2018 Sea Grant-funded scientists, extension staff and legal staff created an integrated program using translational research and outreach programs on production methods and best management practices. Their work led to the creation of a new oyster farming industry in Alabama.

Results:

Based on a situation and outlook survey of 2016 farms, nine of 13 permitted farms reported 18.1 acres of production with total annual sales of almost $2 million. More than 2.8 million oysters were produced on 18.1 acres. The nine farms who responded to the survey employed 20 full-time employees and 10 part-time employees. In 2017, there were 15 permitted farms. The oyster farming industry was non-existent prior to 2010.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-funded programing led to the creation of an Alabama oyster farming industry that is valued at more than $2M per year and employs more than 30 people. (2017)

Scientists develop field-applicable vibrio detection kit for oysters; company pays for rights to use it

Relevance:

Despite V. parahaemolyticus management plans and industry efforts, illness rates continue to go up indicating that industry and regulators have been unable to manage the problem. The oyster industry needs rapid, easy-to-use test kits to detect V. parahaemolyticus levels to evaluate seafood safety when oysters are removed from the water. The tool could be used to evaluate re-submersion following anti-biofouling and other aquaculture practices that state and federal regulators may find likely to increase the risk of vibrio illness.

Response:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-funded scientists developed a simple, rapid and low-cost (compared to other accepted methods) Vp assay kit that will expand industry capacity to develop new post-harvest processing approaches, such as high-salinity relaying or depuration.

Results:

These tests provide a simple, rapid (18 hour) result for total and potentially pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus levels in oysters. Initial testing demonstrated 100-percent specificity against 48 V. parahaemolyticus and 26 non-Vp and sensitivity of less than 10 cells/test. Using the 96-well plate format, comparability testing demonstrated excellent reliability of these test kits, with 183 naturally-incurred oyster samples from the Gulf, Atlantic and Pacific coasts tested and good agreement (P < 0.05) was observed between the test kit for total V. parahaemolyticus and Most Probable Number real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction. Secure Food Solutions, Inc. has exercised an option to adopt this new technology for use in the United States.

Recap:

Scientists create a rapid, easy-to-use and cost-effective assay kit to detect V. parahaemolyticus in oyster samples. A food safety diagnostics company has paid for the rights to use the kit. (2017)

Sea Grant-supported research allows U.S.-based aquaculture feed manufacturers to use enhanced dietary supplement, be competitive in global market

Relevance:

Taurine is a nutrient required in the diet of many fish species. In aquaculture, taurine has traditionally been supplied to fish via fishmeal, but scrutiny over the sustainability of fishmeal as a major source of protein has pushed researchers and industry toward using alternative protein sources, such as plants. However, plants contain no taurine, and feeds using high levels of plant protein must be supplemented with taurine to avoid a deficiency detrimental to the growth and health of fish. Because taurine was not approved for use in fish feeds in the United States, feed manufacturers were forced to use higher levels of fishmeal, which resulted in higher prices and is widely recognized as unsustainable. Additionally, U.S. feed manufacturers are penalized on the international feed market because taurine is approved everywhere else in the world.

Response:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-supported researchers examined information on the efficacy and safety of crystalline taurine used in fish feeds and conducted research to fill knowledge gaps. The information was compiled in a final document, which was submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to amend the current taurine definition and include fish as approved species.

Results:

The FDA and the AAFCO approved the use of crystalline taurine. As of January 18, 2017, U.S. feed manufacturers could include crystalline taurine in their formulations. The use of taurine allowed them to further reduce fishmeal and other animal proteins to reduce cost and improve sustainability of their feeds and to better compete with other manufacturers. There is an increased use of the dietary supplement following its approval and the expansion of awareness of the efficacy of taurine in marine fish feeds. It is now a standard supplement for production diets for marine species, such as Seriola, and is commonly included in maturation diets for marine species. In fact, almost all of the live food enrichment products in the United States now contain taurine. Due to the researchers’ success they have secured additional funding from private industry to advance understanding and use of taurine in fish feed.

Recap:

Because of MASGC-supported research, U.S. aquaculture feed manufacturers produce improved, widely used fish feeds that are effective, more sustainable, less expensive to produce, and more competitive on the international market. (2017)

Research shows coastal residents are willing to pay to preserve open space associated with coastal waterfronts

Relevance:

Alabama. A contingent valuation method (CVM) was employed to estimate citizens' willingness to pay (WTP) to support open-space preservation. Waterfront open spaces are dynamic places and represent an interface between aquatic and terrestrial communities. Waterfront open space provides environmental benefits, recreational opportunities and opportunities for water-dependent economic activities (e.g., ports, boat yards, marinas, storage facilities, fishing docks, seafood markets and others). Benefits from waterfront open space are critical to coastal communities and their visitors. However, with a growing population and urbanization, these areas compete with various land use changes.

Response:

A Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium-supported project evaluated residents’ willingness to preserve open space (water permeable ground cover that is devoid of built structures and which may be public or private property) in coastal regions of Mississippi and Alabama. Two large and two small communities were selected based on total population: Daphne and Mobile, Alabama, and Biloxi and Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 

Results:

Study findings suggested the majority of residents valued waterfront preservation. More than 70 percent of respondents supported the preservation of open space, of which 50.54 percent were willing to make a one-time payment of at least $80. Median willingness to pay was more than $80 and less than $162.14 as a one-time payment in all four models tested in the study. This suggests that the majority of respondents valued waterfront open-space preservation. Local planners and decision-makers will benefit from these findings, which demonstrate a quantitative evidence of the value of open space among their constituents. The data provided the foundation to implement outreach programs to convey the importance of open space preservation to decision makers in their community planning decisions.

Recap:

Research suggests that more than 70 percent of coastal residents would be willing to preserve waterfront open space with a willingness to pay $80-$162 to preserve these areas. (2017)

Research informs preservation of Native American sacred mound site, supports tribe’s effort to become federally recognized

Relevance:

The Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe (PACIT) is seeking to become a federally recognized tribe. There are several steps required to obtain this status, and tribe members recognized that Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) mapping could support their application for federal recognition.

Response:

The tribe gave oral history information and maps to a Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-supported research team. The research team also collected all known maps, photographs and other documents of the area dating as far back as the mid-1500s. Based on these resources and additional information from the tribe, the team created a single map showing where people used to live. The research team also gave the maps and data to the PACIT.

Results:

The research team translated and digitized old maps to show the movement of tribes over time and clarify some confusion that the federal recognition application review board had expressed. The team made more than 100 maps, a dedicated website and an online story-map (complete with a library of historical maps and local projections of sea-level rise and land loss) available to the tribe. Since the Sea Grant project concluded, the maps have been used in the designation process to preserve a Native American sacred mound. Researchers also received additional funding to address priorities identified during the Sea Grant-funded project.

Recap:

At the request of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe (PACIT), a Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-supported research team mapped historical tribal lands, which is aiding its application for federal recognition. The tribe also has used the maps in the process to preserve a Native American sacred mound. (2017)