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Aquaculture

Puerto Rico / The Caribbean / Florida, USA.

Aquaculture plays a significant role in the Caribbean region, offering various benefits and addressing critical challenges. Aquaculture plays a vital role in promoting food security, economic development, environmental sustainability, climate resilience, research and innovation, and community empowerment in the Caribbean region. By leveraging the potential of aquaculture and implementing best practices, Caribbean nations can unlock opportunities for inclusive and sustainable growth while safeguarding marine resources for future generations. 

Current Projects

1

Optimizing the cultivation of Ulva seaweed in the Caribbean: developing the framework for larger-scale cultivation and inclusion into the Puerto Rico Blue Economy

The production of Ulva, also know as sea lettuce, has been globally underutilized and absent in the Caribbean. The overall qualities of Ulva, including being a biofuel and fertilizer, make it an ideal candidate for seaweed production. There is a growing need for resilient food production in Puerto Rico, and seaweed aquaculture can provide a renewable source of nutritious food that is both restorative (nutrient uptake, carbon sequestration) and sustainable. However, seaweed aquaculture has historically been underutilized in Puerto Rico partly due to difficulties in tropical seaweed cultivation and public perceptions of seaweed uses and human consumption. In this project, we will develop a prototype Ulva cultivation facility to sustain land-based sea urchin nurseries while developing the framework for larger-scale Ulva cultivation and inclusion into the Puerto Rico Blue Economy. We will conduct a pilot study and identify the factors (light, nutrients, temperature) and their quantities to maximize the growth of U. onhoi in land-based systems in La Parguera. With our partners from the UPRM, we will determine if the production of Ulva is economically viable to produce and assess various pathways to integrate this undervalued crop into the Puerto Rico Blue Economy. This project will start in 2024 and will run until 2026 with funding from Puerto Rico Sea Grant.

Past Projects

1

Herbivore alternatives: Restocking of Echinometra viridis and Tripneustes ventricosus, on coral reefs to reduce the abundance of nuisance species 

The overall goal of this project was to produce other species of sea urchins like Tripneustes ventricosus and Echinometra viridis, by developing a small sea urchin hatchery and to reintroduce these species to coral reefs, especially deeper corals reefs. The first objective of this project was to develop a small pilot sea urchin hatchery to culture other important herbivore urchin species, Tripneustes ventricosus and Echinometra viridis. A small urchin hatchery was developed at the Department of Marine Science at the University of Puerto Rico (DMS-UPR). Three successful larval runs resulted in 433 lab-reared T. ventricosus juveniles. The majority of the juveniles were released to coral reefs in La Parguera and Fajardo, Puerto Rico. The remaining T. ventricosus juveniles were left in the tanks as broodstock. We also conducted a small larval run with E. viridis with shaker bottles that resulted in 139 settlers.   

 

The second objective of this project was to conduct a field experiment to examine the grazing capability of T. ventricosus with an invasive seagrass, Halophila stipulacea. Therefore, T. ventricosus and Diadema antillarum were caged (corral) for a month in areas with dense H. stipulacea. Both sea urchins reduced H. stipulacea cover within one month, leaving a bare substrate. These sea urchins also fed on H. stipulacea in the laboratory. However, given the extensive distribution and rapid colonization of H. stipulacea, having D. antillarum and T. ventricosus, as biocontrols only is probably not enough, unless it is coupled with active restoration of native seagrasses.  

The last objective of this project was to translocate adult E. viridis from shallower reefs to a deeper shelf edge reef in La Parguera, Puerto Rico. Six hundred and forty (640) E. viridis were transferred to two shelf edge sites, Old Buoy and El Hoyo. Twenty sea urchins were placed in fully enclosed cages (corrals with tops) and there were three controlled corrals (with tops). The benthic composition was monitored at different times for a month. The majority of the E. viridis escaped the cages within the first two weeks, making it difficult to assess significant changes in benthic composition due to urchin grazing. However, we did observe some grazing of the substrate. Funding: NOAA NGO Cooperative Agreement (2020-2023) 

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