Aquaculture by the book

Sandy Shumway

Molluscan Shellfish Aquaculture: A Practical Guide, edited by Sandra E Shumway, is a highly readable and comprehensive overview of the biology, culture techniques and harvesting methods used for a host of shellfish species.

It also covers site selection, business planning, hatchery construction, diseases and pests, biofouling, water quality, genetics, best management practice, certification and regulation, along with information on the environmental and socio-economic aspects of the industry.

This book is written and edited by some of the most widely known and respected academics and industry practitioners, covering mussels, clams, edible and pearl oysters, scallops, cephalopods, abalone and gastropods such as marine snails and conch.

The extensive reference section offers readers the opportunity to take a deeper dive into particular areas of interest, making it invaluable for students, researchers and regulators, as well as current shellfish farmers and anyone looking to enter the industry.

“I hope this book will prove to be a useful manual that will provide newcomers with the information necessary to spark their imagination and continue the global effort to grow and utilise shellfish to their fullest potential,” Shumway told Fish Farmer.

In the preface, Shumway points out that culture of bivalve molluscs has been carried out for centuries, but it only began to prosper in the past few decades, when technological advances started to be made in land-based hatchery systems and coastal grow-out techniques.

Progress began with RRL Guillard, who isolated and cultured phytoplankton as a food source for bivalve larvae in the 1950s, and opened the door for the establishment of shellfish hatcheries. Today, hatchery production is normal practice for many species, and genetic and molecular techniques are routinely used to improve broodstock and combat disease.

Technology has also crept in, with the use of sophisticated models to help shellfish growers with site selection and carrying capacity, while real-time data monitoring is being used to assist with stock management decisions.

The chapter on farming oysters for food and profit, includes a section on the effect of climate change on oyster growth. The authors point out that the oyster industry in many parts of the world is dealing with issues caused by changing oceanic and estuarine carbonate chemistry conditions, which are impacting on the ability of larval oysters to form proper shells.

They suggest that for oysters to thrive in changing environments in the future, hatchery production may need to be moved on-land into recirculation systems, and breeding programmes take multiple stressors into account, including thermal stress and hypoxia.

An important chapter on water and shellfish quality concerns, points out that one of the major challenges shellfish aquaculture businesses face, is that of getting to grips with the regulatory infrastructure.

“To the uninitiated, the world of shellfish regulation may seem unfathomable, overwhelming and maybe a little discouraging,” Gregg W Langlois and Jorge Diogène Fadini say. Welcome to my world!

They also conclude that ultimately, it is the responsibility of shellfish growers to deliver a safe and wholesome product to their customers and suggest that understanding public health concerns and having control strategies in place to manage them is vital to the success of a business.

The section on design and construction considerations for a molluscan shellfish hatchery, provides a comprehensive analysis of the fundamental principles and key criteria applicable to simple family companies growing a limited number of seed of one species, right through to large, corporate operations producing
billions of seed, using automated systems.

A sound piece of advice is given at the end of this chapter, which is to “expect the unexpected,” which as any shellfish farmer knows, happens just about every day in this business!

Practical worksheets are appended as a useful aide-memoire on how to size hatcheries, nurseries, larval units, algal culture and broodstock facilities, depending on the desired species and outcome.

Peter Cook, in the section on business planning, highlights the fact that no matter how much time, effort and funds are put into an aquaculture enterprise, the operation is doomed to fail if the shellfish cannot be sold at a reasonable price. Assessing the size and location of a market, and having a clear handle on production, processing and delivery costs, is essential before starting out on a new venture. This may seem obvious, but poor financial planning has been the downfall of many shellfish businesses, the world over.

Marketing and the global market for molluscan shellfish is covered by Carole R Engle, who illustrates the complexity of the sector, due to the wide range of species, varieties and product forms produced. In 2017, according to figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), 211 countries reported farmed production, with China being the largest overall producer of shellfish.

While wild and farmed shellfish have always competed in the marketplace, farmed product began to exceed the wild harvest in volume and value in 1983, since when it has grown at an annual average rate of 6.6% per year.

in 2017, the total volume of farmed product was nearly seven times greater than that from the wild, with clams and cockles accounting for 36% by volume, oysters for 36%, mussels 14%, scallops 13% and abalone 1%.

This excellent book leaves one in no doubt that ours is a worldwide industry that is frequently overlooked in comparison to fisheries, and offers enormous potential for future development.

Shumway said: “As the global population continues to increase, the need for sustainable, affordable food will also rise. Shellfish provide multiple benefits to the environment and a high-quality source of protein. Shellfish aquaculture can be large scale or sustenance level and provide jobs in developing regions. I hope the multiple benefits of shellfish aquaculture will continue to be recognized and expand globally. Shellfish aquaculture is good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for you!”

Molluscan Shellfish Aquaculture: A Practical Guide
(5m Books, £150)

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