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Strong funding support available to boost seafood research projects

Friday 21 October 2016

One thing the Government cannot be accused of is lack of funding support for science and innovation.

 Up to $48 million is available under the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment's Endeavour Round in 2017.

 Proposals are now being sought in two categories - Smart Ideas aimed at promising, innovative research, and Research Programmes that have potential to transform the economy, environment and society.

 The seafood sector did well in the 2016 round with $12.8 million awarded to Nelson's Cawthron Institute for improving feed conversion efficiency in high value Chinook salmon.

Another $5.3 million was directed to Cawthron to develop multiple shellfish species culture in open ocean sites. The project centres on revolutionary flotation and mooring systems that have the potential to dramatically increase aquaculture production.

  NIWA was also awarded funding for two seafood-related projects.

 One, valued at $506k, was to assess the impact of fishing activity and climate change on productivity of fish populations.

  Another $861k was granted to assess human induced impacts on the seafloor environment through monitoring changes in the chemistry of crustaceans. Mining, trawling, coastal pollution such as siltation and global impacts including ocean acidification are all being considered.

Seafood Innovations Ltd, (SIL) is another funder looking for suitable projects.

 SIL has $7.5 million available to seafood companies or sectors for suitable research projects.

The SIL consortium, led by general manager Mike Mandeno, is a joint venture research company of Seafood NZ and Plant and Food Research. It was seeded with $14 million in total from MBIE over seven years, to be matched 1:1 by industry.

 In a bid to encourage more seafood industry proposals, SIL now provides financial and management assistance to shape projects. It has also cut the administration overhead and relaxed provisions on ownership of intellectual property to give companies greater incentive to invest.

There are no upper or lower limits - projects to grow seafood returns have ranged from $50k to $5 million.

Contact Mike on this link or visit seafoodinnovations.co.nz for guidance on eligible projects.

And the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge is looking for innovative projects to fund.

The challenge has $1.5 million to support projects up to a value of $150k for two years.

Enhancing utilisation of our marine resources within environmental and biological constraints is one focus.

A second is methods to increase diversification in marine economies with a view to adding value.

Expressions of interest are due by November 30.

Those initially selected will be invited to submit detailed proposals by March 15.

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Senior MFAT trade officials are readying for a new round of WTO negotiations regarding fisheries subsidies. Many in the industry will no doubt express sighs of exasperation given the poor WTO results to date.

MFAT trade negotiators Stefan Corbett and Nick Markwell have been visiting a number of fishing companies in Auckland. They have been escorted by Matua Shane Jones, Pacific Economic Ambassador. Nelson is next on the itinerary as the officials seek views from the industry on the current impacts of subsidies. 

The ambassador is on duty today escorting prickly Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama to a Waiheke Island mussel farm.

The uplift in interest on the impacts of subsidies relates to US State Secretary John Kerry announcing backing for negotiations amongst like-minded nations, according to Jones. He said that although Kerry's tenure is drawing to an end, his enthusiasm is obvious given his presentation at the recent US hosted Oceans Conference held in Washington. 

That gathering is held annually and nations are expected to make pledges to 'save the oceans'. The Kermadecs outcome does not, however, give great confidence about the direction of travel emanating from such gatherings. 

- Tim Pankhurst

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