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Fusion Marine Plays Key Role in Innovative New IMTA Shellfish Culture System

07 November 2012

SCOTLAND, UK - Fish farm equipment supplier Fusion Marine has played a key role in the development of an innovative new method for farming abalone and other shellfish.

It is anticipated that the new abalone (ormer) culture system developed by Jersey shellfish farmer Tony Legg could pay an important role in the expansion of mollusc farming in the UK, and is ideally suited for integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) projects where other types of marine culture operations can co-exist and thrive together.

The Abblox system devised and patented by Tony Legg of Jersey Sea Farms consists of a precision moulded plastic 1m3 cube shaped unit with mesh sides. The special composition and design of the mesh arrangement minimises biofouling by marine organisms and also ensures an optimum flow of seawater through each unit, benefiting the abalone growing inside. Abalone consume seaweed and the units have a special hatch arrangement that can be opened at regular intervals to provide the molluscs with their nutritional requirements.

At the moment Tony Legg is using his system on Jersey close to the shore so that he can access the units at low tide, but recognising the offshore potential of the system, especially in integrated operations with salmon farms, he approached Fusion Marine to help devise a raft system to support the Abblox units that can operate in more exposed marine conditions.

Fusion Marine was able to use its considerable knowledge and expertise in open sea fish farm pens to develop a unique square-shaped 500kg production raft constructed from polyethylene flotation pipes that support six Abblox units suspended from cross tubes. Each unit can easily be rotated on these supporting cross tubes onto the side of the raft, enabling convenient access for feeding, grading and harvesting.

IMTA projects are increasingly being seen as the way forward for marine fish farming operations by achieving a greater natural balance in the management of a specific sea area. As well as having a positive benefit on water quality, IMTA has the potential for the development of new business opportunities through the use of polyculture operations. Abalone is a highly prized and much sought-after shellfish but is notoriously difficult to farm and the Abblox system represents a viable and new method of culture.

Tony Legg says: “Sea-based abalone culture is a complex and protracted process. In order to make a business profitable a long sequence of successful steps are needed, just one weak step can result in commercial failure. Get it right and you have a world class product to be proud of.”

Rhuaraidh Edwards, Development Engineer for Fusion Marine, said: “We have been working on this prototype design for the last 18 months and we are delighted to have been able to use our expertise in fish farm pens to develop a specifically designed solution for abalone farming. Hopefully, these developments will help pave the way for the expansion of abalone farming in the future.”

Jersey Sea Farms is now looking to trial the floating raft system as part of an IMTA pilot project and it is anticipated that an initial scheme will be up and running in the near future.

TheFishSite News Desk

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