New Zealand approves "super snapper" for aquaculture

Snapper, a relative of sea bream, is one of New Zealand's most valuable fishery species. Authorities have now approved next stage development of a disease-resistant breed suitable for fish farming.
Australasian snapper, Pagrus auratus.

Australasian snapper, Pagrus auratus.

Photo: Adobe Stock.

New Zealand authorities have given the green light to researchers working on a new strain of snapper (Pagrus auratus) to take their project to the next stage, by setting up a pilot-scale aquaculture farm.

The research, by New Zealand's crown research institute Plant and Food Research (PFR), focuses on breeding snapper suitable for commercial fish farming - developing a strain which is more resistant to disease, as well as able to grow faster and adapt to warmer water.

The project has the potential to drive more economic growth through aquaculture, according to New Zealand's Oceans and Fisheries Minister Shane Jones

“The potential here goes far beyond growing a better and more resilient breed of fish, it also supports our efforts to grow and future-proof New Zealand’s aquaculture," Jones said in a press release.

Climate change is affecting the condition of our oceans and this project is a practical response by a key industry to that change."

“In the wild, snapper can take many years to grow to catch size. The ability to grow them faster, getting them from farm to plate in a shorter time, could open up a new export market and reduce pressure on wild snapper stock," Jones added.

Snapper is one of New Zealand's most valuable wild fisheries

Snapper, a relative of sea bream, is considered one of New Zealand's largest and most valuable fisheries. Snapper also accounts for the country's largest recreational fishery, with sport harvests amounting to more than 40% of the total catch allowance.

The migratory fish species is most commonly found in the North Island and Upper South Island, particularly in Tasman Bay.

Under New Zealand's Fisheries Act, fish caught for research purposes are not allowed for use in aquaculture. However, the government has granted an exemption to PFR, enabling it to transfer its brood snapper stock to a pilot-scale aquaculture farm being developed in Marlborough, on the north coast of New Zealand's south island.

PFR has been running the breeding programme for snapper and trevally, another native fish species, for more than seven years, with promising results achieved in terms of significantly improved growth rates and hardiness in the bred fish, compared with wild-caught snapper.

Aquaculture is potential "multibillion-dollar industry" for New Zealand, says Minister

“Research that is focused on expanding and improving farmed fish species is very welcome and should be encouraged and supported,” Jones affirmed.

“Growing aquaculture is a win for all New Zealanders. It provides jobs and economic growth for the regions and increases export potential for the country. This Coalition Government wants to see aquaculture grow to a multibillion-dollar industry."

“I’m pleased by the innovation and progress I’ve seen in aquaculture in recent months. This project, and the recent final approval for New Zealand King Salmon’s Blue Endeavour project, shows the aquaculture industry is up to the challenge of climate change, and keen to grow an aquaculture sector for the future," Jones added.

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