The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded N.C. Aquariums part of a $750,000 grant to build its sustainable aquaculture program, which aims to sustainably breed saltwater fish species and raise awareness of aquaculture.
N.C. Aquariums will use the funding at the Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island locations to increase staffing on their animal care teams and expand breeding programs. The aquariums will work with North Carolina Sea Grant to engage visitors and their communities.
Aquaculture is the breeding and rearing of fish, shellfish, and other organisms.
“The North Carolina Aquariums, in their coastal locations, have a wonderful opportunity to share this information with not only visitors, but to engage the local fishing community,” said N.C. Aquarium Division Director Maylon White said in a statement. “This type of project allows us to contribute to a developing sustainability program that reaches beyond our walls.”
Teams will be working over the next three years with seven other facilities across the country, in collaboration with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, to build a network of public aquariums to advance aquaculture strategies. These facilities are New England Aquarium, Roger Williams University, Aquarium of the Pacific, John G. Shedd Aquarium, National Aquarium, and University of Massachusetts Boston.
For commercially valuable species, aquaculture can reduce pressure on wild populations. For public aquariums, aquaculture provides a sustainable way to provide animals for their habitats. It also presents a unique way to engage the public about sustainable seafood choices, according to the aquarium.
“Our Aquarium team is committed to sustainably breeding species that are of value to public aquariums and commercial fisheries,” Hap Fatzinger, Fort Fisher’s director, said in a statement. “This opportunity to put more resources into the aquaculture programs at the North Carolina Aquariums, especially in raising public awareness, is important to our mission to inspire appreciation and conservation of our aquatic environments.”
Across the institutions, 14 marine finfish species will be part of this sustainable breeding program.