Washington Sea Grant, based at the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, recently received $1.1 million ($1,123,669) in federal funding for aquaculture research. The funding was part of a total $9.3 million of aquaculture grant money from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that has been distributed among 18 state-level Sea Grant programs across the nation.
“Washington shellfish farmers have led the nation in production of high-quality cultured products for decades,” said Penny Dalton, director of Washington Sea Grant, in a press release. “Two of the projects will focus on environmental challenges the industry faces. The third will pilot commercial operations to grow sablefish.”
The grants were awarded through two competitions to select projects to develop domestic shellfish, finfish, and seaweed aquaculture industries. NOAA received 126 proposals that together requested nearly
$58 million in federal funds. That Washington Sea Grant secured its $1.1 million is quite impressive.
The lion’s share of the $1.1 million for Washington Sea Grant, $824,144, is designated for developing sablefish (aka black cod) aquaculture. The project is a collaboration between University of Washington scientists, NOAA, and tribal experts to grow 10,000 sablefish to harvest size.
Another $149,530 is meant to develop genetic risk assessment tools and evaluate management strategies to mitigate shellfish diseases, while $149,995 is meant to research the functional role of shellfish habitat compared to natural habitat. Interestingly, some of those funds are meant to address “two major barriers to the sustainable growth of shellfish aquaculture in Washington: public perception and permitting.”
Indeed, in the wake of the accidental farmed Atlantic salmon release last summer in the San Juan Islands and growing movement to ban farmed salmon in the state, aquaculture as a whole has suffered in the sphere of local public opinion. Will aquacultured sablefish grow into a successful, publicly embraced industry after this research? Only time will tell. Learn more at Washington Sea Grant’s website, wsg.washington.edu.