Young researcher Dr Adam Powell: advances in aquaculture research

Dr Adam Powell is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR), based at the Department of Biosciences. Following a 13 year career encompassing sustainable aquaculture, food security and aquatic animal health and welfare, Adam has most recently embarked on an exciting collaboration to culture novel fish and shellfish species.

With an increasingly large and growing population, and with more people eating seafood due to perceived health benefits, the stagnation of the wild - or “capture” - fishery to meet global demand is worrying. The contribution from aquaculture to seafood production has therefore increased rapidly since the 1970s.

From humble beginnings in the first half of the 20th century, aquaculture is now responsible for approaching half of the global consumption of fish and shellfish – approximately 70 million tonnes annually.

The farming of seafood is therefore an ongoing human endeavour, likely to expand and diversify to meet demand. It is therefore vital to ensure that such development occurs in a way that is sustainable, and furthermore helps capture some of the socio-economic potential for Welsh initiatives and enterprises. Locally, farmed species include Welsh Sea Bass, mussels, trout, tilapia, and more extensively, cockles and Porphyra – a seaweed used for Laverbread.

Work at CSAR over the past decade has included contributions to the Welsh Government’s Fishery Strategy, and assisting efforts to inaugurate a Welsh Aquaculture Producers’ Association.

However, it is the technical and specific outreach projects that most appeal to Adam.

“The majority of my research has focused on decapods – the large, better known crustacean shellfish that we typically eat, such as lobsters, shrimp and crabs. Innovations we have developed include the development of vaccines and other health management techniques that could prevent disease outbreaks, reduce the need for medicines or disinfection, and ultimately improve survival for sustainable aquaculture businesses or stock re- enhancement initiatives”.

Adam has played a key role in developing a pilot scale hatchery for the Norway Lobster (better known as Scampi, and worth 40% of the UK’s shellfish industry). The overarching goal was to test feasibility for releasing juvenile lobsters into the wild to assist restocking, and demanded a rethink of current rearing techniques as the species is so delicate.

With a manual to be published shortly on line, survival success was improved by approximately tenfold. In addition to supporting SMEs across the EU, there is also a wider research impact to enable studies of the impact of climate change on natural stocks.

CSAR also has a leading role in supporting a cutting edge development in salmon aquaculture across the UK and Norway: non- invasive sea lice removal through the use of Lumpfish, a novel ‘cleaner fish’.

Adam explains: “Cleaner fish are fish that provide a service to other fish species by removing dead skin and parasites. Lumpfish are more widely known for their caviar but the species shows much promise in helping to reduce disease spread and enhance fish welfare across a significant industry. Although there is still much to optimise, CSAR is playing a significant role in this emerging sector via applied R&D.”

“The facilities and technical assistance at CSAR place the centre and research support amongst the best in Europe, and this has been recognised by many significant and forward thinking companies across the sector. Myself and the team look forward to making key sustainable improvements in aquaculture, in partnership with key industry leaders, in the coming years”.