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Mote Lab develops blood test protocol for sexing sturgeon


January 26, 2015
By David Scarratt

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This new system developed by the Florida lab could save producers time

Subsequent to the sale of Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory’s Siberian sturgeon and caviar operation to Southeast Venture Holdings, LLC (Seven Holdings), general partner of Seven Holdings, Christoher Cogan, informed Hatchery International of an important development relevant to anyone in the business of rearing sturgeon.

The development relates to research by Mote Marine Laboratory to develop a blood-test system for sexing sturgeon — and other fish — at an earlier age than current conventional methods allow.

 The blood-test system identifies both male and female sturgeon at around 12 months of age and maybe even as early as nine months, using a range of colors.

 “If it’s in one range, it’s male. If it’s in another, it’s female,” said Cogan.

 He added that he thinks the new system could revolutionize the vital sexing of sturgeon in aquaculture and caviar production – and save caviar producers a considerable amount of money. The test is less stressful and requires less space – not to mention less feed since the fish don’t have to be grown to maturity. Caviar production can be increased without having to expand the current nursery and growout facilities.

 Cogan added that the new sexing system could give Seven Holdings the option of producing one-pound fillets of smoked sturgeon meat using the culled males.

Seven Holdings intends to ramp up caviar production from just under 2 metric tonnes(mt) a year, to 2mt for the next two years, then 2.25-2.5mt to 3-3.5mt by 2019-2020. The new blood test, yet to be implemented as a production aid, will be a valuable tool in meeting these production goals.

 Ongoing are discussions about how to make the blood-test program available to the sturgeon aquaculture sector around the world.

Under consideration are teaching staff of other companies to use the disposable kits; a contract agreement for the administration of the tests, and; selling the kits.

 The sale of Mote’s Siberian sturgeon and caviar production operation to Southeast Venture Holdings, LLC (Seven Holdings) was announced late in November 2014.

“This sale marks the first major private business spin-off from Mote research and achieves a major goal for the Laboratory’s 2020 Vision & Strategic Plan,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, Mote President & CEO.

“This is a great example of how basic research in the field of sustainable land-based aquaculture has led to innovative water recirculation technology that can help sustainably feed the world and help to expand employment in our region.”

Seven Holdings will integrate the fish and caviar operation into its Healthy Earth brand of sustainable foods businesses and Christopher Cogan, will serve as Healthy Earth’s CEO.

Healthy Earth was established to develop commercial-scale operations across the entire sustainable foods sector, from natural feed supplements and safe biological replacements for harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers, to sustainable aquaculture and agriculture production.

   — Quentin Dodd