The Agricultural Research and Extension Centers are a network of 11 research centers located throughout the state that emphasize the close working relationship between the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Virginia Cooperative Extension. “Inside the ARECs” highlights the work and accomplishments of these 11 centers and will appear in every Insights.
Some reports estimate the U.S imports as much as 90 percent of its seafood, making the seafood trade deficit second only to oil among natural resource deficiencies in United States.
The research that is conducted at the Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Hampton, Virginia, seeks to change that. Not only does the center encourage growth of the aquaculture industry in the commonwealth, but it also helps to maintain a safe seafood supply nationwide.
Virginia has seen particularly strong growth in the oyster industry and produced more than 500,000 bushels in the last year — a quantity that represents a 25 percent increase and has not been seen in almost a generation.
One of the focuses of the Seafood AREC is to control pathogens in raw oysters such as Vibrios.
The potentially deadly pathogens are naturally occurring and peak in the summer months when water temperatures rise. Vibrios are the main cause of illness from raw oyster consumption.
“We are looking at some lower cost measures to eliminate Vibrios in raw oysters by using salinity in water to lower Vibrio levels,” said Mike Jahncke, director of the Seafood AREC.
By placing oysters in recirculation tanks with salinity, researchers have reduced levels of Vibrios to levels that are safe for human consumption.
Fin fish are also a focus of the AREC and are of critical importance to maintaining food security in the United States. Increasingly the lack of availability of fish meal to feed farm-raised fish is a concern for producers and threatens the global supply of seafood.
Researchers at the Seafood AREC conduct aquaculture nutrition research not based on scarce fish meal, but using plant-based fish feed using cobia and pompano to help producers increase production in an economically viable and sustainable way.
The nutrition studies measure how much feed is necessary for the fish and also how and what to finish the fish with. Like farmers that finish cattle on grain, researchers at the Seafood AREC study how to maximize finishing feed to make fish palatable to consumers in texture, taste, and color.