Breadcrumbs

IVF for flounder holds the key to a fledgling aquaculture industry

29 June 2021

Brooke Ellis-Smith

Creating an IVF programme for New Zealand’s endemic Yellowbelly flounder was not how Brooke Ellis-Smith envisaged her career in aquaculture, but her research holds the key to a fledgling industry for New Zealand’s small coastal communities.

An artificial breeding programme for the flounder, known as Pātiki, was started by University of Waikato researchers this month. Forty-two Pātiki, netted from the Tauranga Harbour and housed in tanks at Toi Ohomai’s Aquaculture Facility, are its foundation breeding stock.

University of Waikato Master of Science student Brooke Ellis-Smith, has received a William Georgetti Scholarship to research induced reproduction in Pātiki, encouraging them to spawn in captivity using a natural hormone analogue.

Her research is part of an externally funded collaboration between University of Waikato, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and research partners from Matakana Island and Whakatōhea who are exploring the development of small whānau-owned aquaculture farms in coastal communities.

Pātiki do not easily breed in captivity, but researchers plan to use a gonadotropin releasing hormone analogue (GnRHa), to encourage the fish to spawn in tanks during their normal winter breeding season.

“I guess it’s a bit like IVF treatment in humans. The hormone we use encourages them to develop their eggs” says Brooke.

Brooke’s research is being overseen by Dr Simon Muncaster who is leading the wider interdisciplinary project as part of the Government’s Sustainable Seas, National Science Challenge, designed to develop New Zealand’s Blue Economy, including growing our aquaculture industry to a $3 billion industry by 2035.

“Aquaculture is an industry that is already dominated by corporate businesses because of the generally high set up costs. Rural coastal communities, who have the land, are generally excluded because of the high set-up costs,” says Brooke.

But farming Pātiki on land could be as simple as constructing shallow raceways to breed them in and they return a similar or higher value than whole Snapper per kilo, up to $26/kg, making it a lucrative business.

Pātiki are a taonga species, and numbers have been in decline in the Tauranga Harbour, says Brooke.

“If we’re successful we could farm them a lot more economically and sustainably and by turning it into a viable industry, we would also take the pressure off wild stocks and create local jobs. There would also be the potential to restock fish back into the wild. However this would need careful planning to preserve wild gene pools.”

Within the 42 brood-stock they have identified the male and female Pātiki and will treat both with the hormone. Once the hormone has worked, the female Pātiki develop a large bump on the top side indicating their eggs are ready.

“At that point we strip the eggs and assess them for quality and quantity, and we also do the same to the males, taking their milt to fertilise the eggs.”

It is careful work. The male’s milt cannot touch any seawater before being mixed with the eggs otherwise it activates and the whole process is lost.

“While it is delicate work once you have the eggs and the milt it can be as simple as mixing them with some seawater in a bowl to fertilise them,” says Brooke.

Brooke says the type of land-based fish farming they are proposing would also sit well alongside the growing seaweed aquaculture industry.

“Fish aquaculture can put a lot of nutrients in the water, but it could be partnered with a seaweed algal pond that could filter the water and produce a high value organic fertiliser,” says Brooke.

The William Georgetti Scholarship supports postgraduate study and research important to the social, cultural or economic development of New Zealand.


This research aligns with the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Decent Work and Economic Growth Life Below Water

Latest stories

Related stories

andrew-smith

Rhodes Scholar, Distinguished Alumnus and CEO supports students at the University of Waikato

Distinguished alumnus Dr Andrew Smith is funding an annual medal in excellence and kicking off…

NMR Rototuna

New $1.5 million spectrometer boosts research capacity

A recent arrival at the University of Waikato will play a vital research role in…

geoff-furniss-headshot

Industry CEO proud to support opportunities for female STEM students

A new scholarship has been established to support female students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering,…

Professor Bruce Clarkson

Waikato researchers receive massive boost for environmental projects

Researchers from the University of Waikato will now be able to advance projects to model…

Campaign image 2

World’s first Bachelor of Climate Change launched at University of Waikato

The world’s first Bachelor of Climate Change degree has been launched by the University of…

THE

Waikato research recognised for international impact in latest world rankings

The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, released today placed the University of Waikato…

Cushla

The wicked problem of climate change – alumna Cushla Loomb faces the challenges

Cushla Loomb combines her love of the ocean and science to make an impact in…

 MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

Fish detector dogs helping to sniff out pest fish in Waikato and Bay of Plenty lakes

There’s some fishy business going on in the Schools of Science and Psychology at the…

Hannah Robinson and Ashlee Cooper, two of the six Sparling Travel Award recipients

Six University of Waikato Environmental Science students receive Sparling Travel Award

Six masters and doctoral students have been given the opportunity to travel throughout New Zealand…

Isaac McIvor 2

3MT event puts PhD research centre-stage at Waikato

A speech on the development of ancestral Waikato pā using both a mātauranga Māori and…

Group photo

Inspiring more Māori students into science and technology career pathways

Hundreds of Māori high school students will soon be inspired to take up STEMM subjects…

A passion for sports science: Dr Shannon O’Donnell

While the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are playing out half a world away, a group…