Key Components of the Project
Block 1. Legislation
Legislative issues that affect abalone can be classified as:
- Legislation that affects shellfish production in general, but with reference to abalone and includes the movement of shellfish and the utilisation of seaweed resources
- Legislation that affects the hygiene and food safety aspects for shellfish production and its relevance to abalone
In both cases there are marked differences between the European Union States, and it is the aim of these work packages to review, and prepare recommendations which will be submitted to the EC and the relevant States, to ensure harmonisation in legislation that is relevant to abalone production, sites and methods.
These reviews and proposals will also assess the affects of legislation that groups abalone with other shellfish species, notably bivalves. As abalone are gastropods, their diet and feeding methods are different to bivalves, as are the risks of contamination to products for human consumption.
With respect to hygiene and food safety, a research component will be included that will place abalone in-situ with other bivalves to demonstrate the difference between contamination risks so that base line data can be established.
These anomalies in the legislation adopted by the EU States in the abalone culture regions create great differences in competitiveness between producers culturing the same species in nearly identical environmental conditions.
Block 2. Research Programmes
In this block are the core research activities of SUDEVAB and they will cover the following areas:
- Pathology - the focus will be on Vibrio and viral diseases, which at the current time are the most serious causes of mortality in abalone production units in Europe - a 20% reduction in mortality rates will have significant economic consequences for all producers
- Genetics - although brood-stocks are available throughout the producing region, little is known about there parentage, and as most stocks originate from NW France and the Channel Islands, the potential for in-breeding is significant. Understanding these genetic links and comparisons with growth characteristics will see the selection of faster growers as potential brood-stock material, and the resulting offspring will eventually prove to be more economically viable. A 20% improvement will be possible in the mid-term.
- Nutrition - nutrition is very important for the sustainable culture of abalone as feed constitutes up to 60% of operational costs. It is not sufficient for a producer to rely solely on harvested seaweeds which are seasonal in availability and quality. In this research package, these will be compared with seaweeds that are cultured in the sea and in the effluent coming out of aquaculture systems for both abalone and other aquatic species. The economics of production and the value of the seaweeds themselves will be compared to estimate best-fit solutions for producers, in conjunction with availability, local legislation and logistics of supply. All improvements in efficiency will have a major impact on production costs.
- Sustainable production technology - this research programme has close associations with the nutrition research work, as feed resources, especially when harvested from wild stocks need to be sustainable. However this also focuses on the technology of systems and design, and the interactions between existing shellfish production systems for mussels, scallops, etc, and how abalone can be a poly-culture solution for shellfish producers. It is common to find producers who have short to medium term production business plans that have low economic returns, while abalone have high returns, but only in the long-term. A blend of these different production strategies can significantly improve the economic return for a producer, while also diversifying the risk of single species aquaculture.
In these research programmes the RTD performers will undertake the bulk of the research work, but the SME partners will also contribute significantly in trial activities, collection of samples and the supply of abalone for the research.
Block 3. Commercial Aspects
This block comprises of two elements:
- Marketing and product placement
- Scoping for the formation of producers organisation
The marketing section has a two-fold objective - communication to the markets and potential consumers the attributes of abalone as a novel seafood product that is becoming available; and receiving information from the markets and consumers as to their desires and needs from the abalone product. The research will also be working with eco/organic-label organisations to establish criteria needed for eco-certification for production so that European abalone products will be able to fit into the strongly growing EU eco-sector for shellfish products. SUDEVAB will be communicating these results to block 2 activities, as well as having close links with the legislative block to ensure continuity in the marketing processes and hygiene and food safety aspects which are marketing tools for abalone.
The successful development of consumer awareness will be a major contributor to commercial success for the producers of abalone, but only if they are producing products that meet the consumer's requirements. To promote this communication the marketing research will include direct actions that involve the producers, chefs, the gourmet catering sector, and potential consumers of seafood.
Closely associated to the marketing activities, is the scoping for the formation of a producer's organisation (PO), as a PO will actively bring producers together and promote the product and the markets simultaneously. This format also brings the producers in contact with the research programmes in SUDEVAB and allows the dissemination of research findings, and discussion on the abalone sector as a whole with two major meetings planned in the project (months 12 & 24) - details will appear on this website. The scoping exercise for the future formation of a dedicated abalone producers PO will also engage other participants that are part of the Industrial Consultancy Group that are supporting the project giving all participants greater opportunities to interact.