Industry experts, nongovernmental organizations and lawmakers joined researchers from throughout the 23-campus California State University system at the CSU’s Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in central California Jan. 13-14 to discuss leveraging the CSU’s expertise in aquaculture.

Aquaculture is the breeding, growing, and harvesting of animals and plants in freshwater, brackish and marine environments. The practice, which primarily produces “farm-raised” seafood for human consumption, is underdeveloped in California. A vibrant aquaculture industry in the state would strengthen the economy, improve the safety and quality of food, and make wild-caught fisheries and our environment more sustainable.

By combining expertise, CSU campuses and faculty can conduct research needed for advancement of California’s aquaculture industry, train future workforce members and entrepreneurs, and provide input and guidance for issues associated with policy and permitting.

The combined efforts can support a strong, sustainable aquaculture industry in California, says Dr. Krista Kamer, director of the CSU Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology, which provided support for the meeting. Dr. Michael Graham, Professor of Marine Ecology at Moss Landing Marine Labs, who organized the meeting, also successfully obtained support for the meeting from California Sea Grant.

“The U.S. is a massive consumer and a minor producer of aquaculture, and right now, California isn’t prepared to catch up,” Graham said. “But this collaboration has the potential to put California at the forefront of research, education and innovation in the industry.”

The CSU has outstanding aquaculture programs at Moss Landing Marine Labs, San Diego State, Chico State and Humboldt State. In addition, related research and education is taking place on nearly every other campus. For example, a current Fresno State/USDA study is working to find out if farmed fish would benefit from a diet that includes forage grasses grown in the Central Valley.

Business owners and industry partners at the meeting said this type of research and education has huge potential to benefit the current industry.

“Research like this can improve our product and make us more competitive,” said Greg Dale, operations manager for Eureka-based Coast Seafood Company. “We also need an educated workforce--new graduates with experience and knowledge gained from hands-on learning.”

Industry partners also expressed a need for CSU expertise in fields like business and political science--to help them navigate regulations and help policymakers make informed, science-based decisions.

“With students and faculty in a great range of fields from biology to engineering to business, the CSU is a great asset for this industry in California,” said Dr. Rhea Williamson, dean of research, economic, and community development at Humboldt State.

The CSU aquaculture experts are now working on the framework to share information that will strengthen industry, student learning and research in the field. As a recognized effort, the meeting has also paved the way for grant funding--leading to many more opportunities for the CSU to increase its impact on the aquaculture industry.

For more information about aquaculture and marine research in the CSU visit http://www.calstate.edu/coast/