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DNA Testing Ensuring a Sustainable Aquaculture Industry

09 July 2014

AUSTRALIA - DNA-based molecular assessment of marine sediments adjacent to finfish farms is ensuring the sustainability of South Australia’s fishing grounds.

Production of South Australia’s premium farmed Southern Bluefin Tuna and Yellowtail Kingfish has been subject to regulation testing for several years, ensuring the products come from a clean environment while supporting marine ecosystems.

SARDI’s Aquaculture Environment subprogramme leader Dr Maylene Loo said close cooperation between the tuna industry and State Government researchers and regulators was supporting sustainable aquaculture production in South Australia.

“Together we will continue to ensure we maintain our premium food from a clean environment market position,” she said.

“Regular assessment of the similarities and differences of sediments near and remote from tuna cages is a useful barometer for the health of the environment in which these magnificent fish are raised.”

More than 7000 tonnes of Southern Bluefin Tuna are marketed every year from the Port Lincoln region on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, returning more than half the state’s total A$243 million aquaculture production.

The DNA-based tests, developed by the State Government’s primary industries research institute, the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), have also been used to assess the presence of select marine pests and tuna pathogens – expanding the value of this novel technology to industry.

Brian Jeffriess, Chief Executive of the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association (ASBTIA), said the DNA-based testing was a good example of science and technology supporting the industry’s long-term position.

“It is more reliable and less costly than the more labour-intensive methods used in the past for assessing the marine sediments,” Mr Jeffriess said.

Dr Loo said the testing was an extension of a molecular diagnostics service developed by SARDI for agriculture.

“The development of these DNA-based assays for selected marine organisms in sediment provides a reliable system for routine evaluation of marine sediments in the evaluation of the environmental effects of finfish aquaculture” Dr Loo said.

“An environmental compliance scorecard was also developed to facilitate the technology’s application across both industry and regulatory environments.

“The complete system, from sample collection through to data analysis and interpretation, has created a standardised regime for compliance environmental monitoring protocols for marine finfish aquaculture in South Australia.”

Development of the programme was funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), former Aquafin Cooperative Research Centre and Government of South Australia.

The system has expanded since 2009 to cover environmental monitoring of other finfish aquaculture in South Australia, including the expanding production of Yellowtail Kingfish.

SARDI’s molecular diagnostic laboratory is a certified quarantine facility and can extract DNA from more than 250 samples a day from up to 500g of sediments, soil or other environmental samples.

The finfish testing system, supported by strong biosecurity protocols and high-quality food safety standards, supports SA’s reputation as a supplier of safe, high quality seafood using environmentally sustainable practices.

Policy development and regulatory management of SA marine aquaculture sectors are underpinned by significant environmental research, including biology, ecology and oceanography.

TheFishSite News Desk

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