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Alabama, Mississippi projects receive funding to advance aquaculture industry

By: Melissa Schneider / Published: Oct 31,  2017

Two projects in Alabama and Mississippi have been selected for funding through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant Integrated Projects to Increase Aquaculture Production grant competition.

Reginald Blaylock of The University of Southern Mississippi and his research team will be awarded $994,955 for their project "Commercializing intensive copepod culture: A transformational foundation essential for increasing domestic production of high-value marine finfish," and Bill Walton of Auburn University will receive $100,218 for his project "Enhancing peer-to-peer learning opportunities for Southern oyster farmers."

Both projects were submitted to the competition through the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. They are two of 11 projects selected for funding from among 80 proposals.

"Marine aquaculture is one of Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant's strengths," LaDon Swann, director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, said. "The research and outreach conducted by Sea Grant-supported scientists contributes to the safe and sustainable seafood supply that is important to the U.S. economy."

Other members of Blaylock's team include Eric Saillant and Jessica Kastler of The University of Southern Mississippi; Carole Engle, Robert Lane, Jonathan van Senten and Michael Schwarz and of Virginia Tech; Matthew DiMaggio of the University of Florida; Charles Adams of Florida Sea Grant; and Eric Henry of Reed Mariculture, Inc. With matching funds, this project will total nearly $1.5 million.

Reginald Blaylock and his team will seek to develop commercial-scale culture of several copepods, including Acartia tonsa.
Reginald Blaylock and his team will seek to develop commercial-scale culture of several copepods, including Acartia tonsa.

In the project, scientists will optimize production systems and culture parameters to facilitate and implement copepod mass production at the producer level. Copepods are small or microscopic crustaceans that are natural prey items for most larval fish.

Walton's project will assist oyster farmers and business owners with travel costs to visit oyster farms to learn from other farmers and attend the annual Oyster South Symposium to exchange information. The funds will also help farmers attend industry-focused workshops, meetings and trade shows. With matching funds, the project will total about $150,000.

The aquaculture grant to Bill Walton of Auburn University will allow oyster farmers to travel to learn from other farmers.
The aquaculture grant to Bill Walton of Auburn University will allow oyster farmers to travel to learn from other farmers.

Between this grant competition and a separate "Addressing Impediments to Aquaculture Opportunities" competition, NOAA Sea Grant has awarded $9.3 million for 32 projects to advance the development of a sustainable marine and coastal aquaculture industry in the United States.

All projects include public-private partnerships and will be led by university-based Sea Grant programs. With each project, every two federal dollars of funding is matched by non-federal funds, bringing the total investment in these research projects to $13.9 million.

"Public-private partnerships play a vital role in advancing sustainable domestic aquaculture and increasing food security," said Jonathan Pennock, director of NOAA Sea Grant. "Industry is working alongside researchers on each of these projects, which will help expand businesses, create new jobs and provide economic benefits to coastal communities."

More information on the funded projects can be found here.

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