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Tropical rock lobsters breeding success for Australian researchers

A fully domesticated female ornate rock lobster is a mother following the hatching of tens of thousands of eggs at the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s Townsville headquarters. The lobster larvae will grow to become the second generation of lobsters fully reared in captivity

March 31, 2011


Tropical rock lobsters breeding success for Australian researchers

A fully domesticated female ornate rock lobster is a mother following the hatching of tens of thousands of eggs at the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s Townsville headquarters. The lobster larvae will grow to become the second generation of lobsters fully reared in captivity

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) is the first research institution to report these results as tropical rock lobsters are difficult to breed in captivity. The breakthrough will open the way to selective breeding, giving researchers the opportunity to focus on development of commercially important traits in domesticated lobsters.

Research institutions and private companies are working to understand the complex breeding cycle of lobsters, so high-value lobsters can be farmed to supply growing demand in places such as China and Southeast Asia.

The head of the project, Dr Mike Hall said: "This latest breakthrough builds on AIMS’ strength and the team’s expertise in crustacean research, microbiology and nutrition. It continues on from our successes in a research consortium in black tiger prawn domestication, which has been passed on to industry.

Dr Hall said the AIMS project had reached some important milestones. The team have been able to induce breeding in lobsters throughout the year, through out-of-season breeding manipulation. The team had a world first in publishing in the peer-reviewed literature the complete description of the larval cycle of the ornate rock lobster (Panulirus ornatus) in captivity. It has also achieved identification of a new species of disease causing bacteria; rearing of larvae on formulated artificial diets and finally, the spawning of second generation domesticated broodstock.

"These are all fundamental issues that had to be resolved, in order to build proof-of-concept for the establishment of a commercial lobster industry. The team has met these challenges" he said.

"With the recent spawning of a completely domesticated lobster we can now undertake selective breeding, which will also be important in the establishment of lobster farms."

"Much of this research progress has been possible because of the AIMS research vessel, the RV Ferguson which has given us the platform to study the secret life of the lobster, in its natural habitat in the Coral Sea," Dr Hall said.

Dr Hall said the establishment of a commercial lobster farm industry would help ease pressure on rapidly-dwindling stocks of wild lobsters. "Australia’s marine domain makes up over 70 per cent of its territory, but has one of the largest seafood trade deficits in import (193,500 tonnes) to export (46,900 tonnes) ratio in the world. The demand for high value seafood from the wild is relentless and will continue for decades to come.’

He said AIMS’ aquaculture research was making an important contribution to knowledge which addressed the relentless demand for seafood. Seafood supply through aquaculture was helping to slow overexploitation and degradation of marine ecosystems.

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