Pioneering new breeding project to use fish eggs from Hunstanton Sea Life Centre
A pioneering new breeding project is set to use tiny fish eggs harvested from tanks at Hunstanton Sea Life Centre.
A special facility in Wales will attempt to hatch the eggs and rear as many of the hatchlings as possible in a three-year programme called the SustaiNable Aquarium Project (SNAP), aimed at helping aquariums become more self-sufficient.
It is part of a collaboration between Bangor University, seven Sea Life centres and two other aquariums, which has attracted more than £350,000 of EU funding.
Kieran Copeland, Hunstanton Sea Life curator, said the eggs of many of the smaller aquarium fish are invisible to the naked eye.
He added: “They are not generally harvested because the larvae would need to be fed on microscopic plankton and algae which require specialist skills and costly equipment to cultivate.”
The University will provide this at a special facility in Anglesey, which will receive regular egg consignments from Sea Life and return any resulting fully developed fish.
Hunstanton and its sister centres across the UK are targeting an initial 20 tropical reef species which are popular in aquariums but have not yet been successfully captive-bred.
They include species of butterflyfish, rabbitfish, angelfish and tangs.
If successful the project could lead to the first commercial hatchery for these species in Europe, based in Wales and supplying aquariums and hobbyists across the continent.
The eggs and larvae will be collected in a special filter box floated at the surface of key tropical display tanks.
It is also hoped the project will help to reduce the demand for species from the wild and will aid efforts to combat unethical and destructive practices like cyanide and dynamite fishing.
“Sea Life is very careful to try and ensure its own stocks come from accredited sources which harm neither wild populations nor the marine environment,” Kieran added.
“We are nevertheless committed to continually reducing our reliance on wild caught fish and this project has the potential to help us significantly in that goal.”