Today was a memorable and emotional day. I was invited to the official opening of the SPATnz shellfish hatchery, located at the Glen just north of Nelson. The New Zealand Government and seafood company Sanford have each put in $13M and the result is impressive. A large, state-of-the-art shellfish hatchery with a target production (in Stage 1) of the equivalent of 10,000 tonnes of Greenshell™ Mussels per year.
I had been out of touch with developments in the past 10 years since I left Cawthron, so it was interesting to see how much had been achieved. For example, back then the biggest unsolved problem was the transition between hatchery tanks and mussel lines in the sea. The survival rate of wild spat (juvenile mussels) was very low, way less than 1%. That didn’t matter, because wild spat were plentiful (usually) and cheap. But hatchery spat was a different matter entirely. These pedigree shellfish were expensive, so we couldn’t afford to have 99.5 % decide to swim off to find a better spot, committing suicide in the process. We calculated that a retention of at least 25% was needed for a hatchery to be viable. Well, SPATnz have cracked that one and now report retentions of 30% or greater.
The new hatchery contains lots of innovations that were developed back in those early days. For example:
- smart double-ended heat pumps generating hot and cold water, for very energy-efficient heating and temperature control
- continuous larval rearing systems
- continuous algal systems
Successful operation of the hatchery requires an extremely skillful and well educated workforce with high quality scientific support. My gut feeling is that it’s that requirement that will prevent other countries from stealing the endemic NZ Greenshell™ Mussel. What SPATnz is doing is extremely difficult, requiring a lot more than technology and capital for success.
We saw the very first batch of baby mussels almost ready to be shipped off to marine farms. At a guess there seemed to be enough for 10 – 15 km of mussel lines. I congratulate Sanford on their commitment and wish SPATnz every success in achieving their vision: to transform the NZ Greenshell™ Mussel industry!
Here are some links to a little history:
Domestication of the NZ Greenshell™ Mussel (a small story starting in 1993)
Nelson Mail story covering the opening
Cawthron news item Sep 2013 with a link to a documentary on their mussel research programme
The SPATnz PGP Programme , from the MPI website, with quarterly reports
plus those related posts listed below.