Dry sea squirts hanging. (Photo: Maria Luisa Garrido)
Sea squirt farming under study
Thursday, January 17, 2013, 05:00 (GMT + 9)
A team of researchers from Universidad Catolica del Norte (UCN) has been developing for three years a study on sea squirt (Pyura chilensis), a fishery resource with a distinctive flavour, thanks to its iodine content.
Scientists worked with fishermen in the Region of Coquimbo (Peñuelas, Guayacan and Totoral) to achieve three main objectives:
- Achieving sea squirt farming;
- Trying it as food for Chilean abalone (Concholepas concholepas);
- Transferring the knowledge and skills obtained to beneficiary fishermen.
The project was assigned to the UCN in the 3rd Project Contest of Programme Towards a Worldwide Aquaculture (HUAM)-Fondef 2008.
The leader of this initiative, Wolfgang Stotz, said the idea is "learning to produce, using sea squirt to feed Chilean abalone, if they can’t be directly sold, and specifically, to help our partners to learn from technology."
After three years of research, the experts concluded that this resource can be grown with little investment and care, but counting on adequate water conditions.
They also claim that the alternative of using sea squirt for Chilean abalone feeding is possible and even profitable to medium and large scale.
On the other hand, they stress that farming activity and repopulation of the resource, to be successful, requires a clear role by artisanal fishermen, supported from the scientific area, UCN reported.
Professionals and scientists from the School of Marine Sciences and Project and Technology Transfer Unit of the UCN, and the artisanal fishermen of the three creeks worked to produce seeds in the laboratory, obtaining eggs, which were fertilized, and then the larvae was set in various substrates to test different growth conditions.
The research team found that sea squirt grows faster at a higher density and requires virtually no management, but it should not be left to grow long, because it produces a bigger shell (protective layer secreted by the shellfish) and less meat.
Therefore, they concluded that sea squirt farming would be profitable without much investment and technology, related care, and for numerous creeks, it may represent an interesting additional income, taking advantage of available capabilities and equipment.
"We must now work hard to restock the bottom with sea squirt, which will only progress if divers and fishermen themselves develop it, supported by research," said Stotz.
To Jorge Araya, of the Association of Fishermen and Divers in Peñuelas, the participation in this project meant to expand the possibilities of generating resources.
Meanwhile, Pascual Aguilera, head of the Association of Fishermen of Caleta Guayacan A.G., emphasized the achievements of this plan and the joint work with professionals of the UCN.
Juan Carlos Tello, from the Union of Independent Workers, Divers and Fishermen of the town of Totoral, said: "The product is known, but how to biologically work it isn’t; we were lacking of tools. We only knew the shell, we didn’t know there was a larva, nor how to farm it, and we’ll keep this as an experience. "
By Analia Murias