Water research round-up

November 2016

Cawthron aquaculture scientist Kevin Heasman. Photo: Cawthron

Several research milestones have been reported by the Cawthron Institute in the last six months, ranging from the surprising results of a marine survey of Hector’s dolphins through to a scampi farming breakthrough which has seen the tasty deep sea animals successfully raised in captivity.

Dolphin headcount turns up surprise

Hector’s dolphins are one of the world’s rarest dolphins, but the results of a three-year survey to update Hector’s dolphin numbers and distribution has revealed there are between 12,000 and 18,500 nationwide. The last published estimate was just over 7000. Of concern, however, was that around half were found far outside New Zealand’s banned trawling and set-net areas. Read more . . .

Water quality maps

Water maps showing transient water qualities may soon be available to boaties, anglers, and mussel farmers in the Tasman and Golden Bay areas. Cawthron ecologist and project leader Dr Jonathan Banks says the water quality maps, like a weather map, would come in handy after heavy rain, when rivers flush sediment and other contaminants out to sea. They would show river plumes, their predicted path, and information about the risk of bacterial contamination. “This sort of information is important to local councils to help manage beach closures, as well as to the shellfish industry, whose harvest depends on water quality.” Read more . . .

Freshwater algae’s toxic secret

A research team, co-led by Cawthron’s Dr Susie Wood, has been investigating what triggers toxin production in freshwater bluegreen algae as part of a three-year Marsden Fund project. “It appears one of the reasons they produce toxins is as a coping mechanism in response to extreme shifts in their environment created when blooms form,” says Dr Wood. “Unlike many organisms that produce toxins to protect themselves against predation, we believe that toxin production in cyanobacteria protects the cells from adverse conditions.” In the future, the researchers hope to predict toxin production in real time to enable governments, councils, and regulators to better protect the public. Read more ...

Scampi farming breakthrough

The world’s first captive scampi have been raised from eggs by Cawthron Institute aquaculture scientists, taking New Zealand a step closer to establishing a scampi aquaculture sector. “The project is only two years old, but what we’ve learned about the scampi in terms of husbandry and behaviour is significant,” says Cawthron aquaculture development specialist Kevin Heasman. Read More . . .