UNCW Aquaculture Faculty Receive NC Sea Grant

THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2016
Black Sea Bass Brood Stock
North Carolina has the benefit of offering some truly beautiful and varied natural landscapes. From the mountains to the plains to the beaches, the state appeals to nature lovers of all kinds. UNCW researchers are exposed to unique opportunities in biology and marine biology, thanks to the university's unique coastal location.

Wade Watanabe, research professor for the Center for Marine Science and coordinator for the University of North Carolina Wilmington aquaculture program, is one of the many university-based researchers who have made their working lives about sea life. For Watanabe, it's all about sustainability in commercial fingerling farming.

Watanabe and his fellow researchers recently received the North Carolina Sea Grant for a project titled "Overcoming Technical Barriers to Cost-Effective Production of Marine Finfish Fingerlings and Expanded Growout Production: Optimizing Nursery Stocking, Feeding and Harvesting Strategies." Watanabe will be working with fellow faculty members Md. Shah Alam, research associate professor for the Center for Marine Sciences, and Patrick Carroll, research specialist for the Center for Marine Sciences.

With a focus on black sea bass, Watanabe and his team hope to improve the availability and affordability of fish fingerlings to commercial farmers. Purchasing fingerlings is one of the major costs to marine fish farmers. Watanabe hopes to identify the minimal period of larval development needed to raise the youngest and smallest sea bass in the hatchery that can be safely transported to farmers. This information is especially pertinent now, as studies have shown that farm-raised black sea bass are rising in demand from upscale seafood restaurants in North Carolina and other U.S. metropolitan areas.

"My co-PI's and I are excited and motivated by this opportunity to further extend our research from the laboratory to the commercial scales to help advance marine finfish aquaculture in NC and beyond," said Watanabe about his team receiving the NC Sea grant.

The NC Sea Grant was created by the UNC System in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to address a range of coastal issues unique to North Carolina. Watanabe's project is a perfect example of one of NC Sea Grant's focus areas: safe and sustainable food supply. UNCW has become an important breeding ground for businesses looking to acquire black sea bass eggs or fingerlings. A number of startup companies and farms, even some outside of North Carolina, turn to UNCW's pilot hatchery for their stock. Because the UNCW pilot hatchery offers eggs and fingerlings at such an affordable price, many of these startups and farms are supporting Watanabe's project.

--Caitlin Taylor