Sandworms and seaweed; an unlikely partnership

Date of publication : 4/24/2008
Source : Bym News
A Bribie Island research project involving sandworms and seaweed products has the potential to deliver significant benefits for Queensland aquaculture farmers and our environment.

Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) Tim Mulherin said the project, which focused on marine worms being grown at prawn farms, had yielded some unexpected results.

"Two species of sand worms found in Moreton Bay have proved to be effective vacuum cleaners in the sand beds used to clean up nutrient rich waters from aquaculture farms,"  the Minister said.

"Normal sand filters clog up after time, but the sand worms have shown themselves to be very good at removing waste and nutrients from the sand. What is really exciting is that as well as the production of worms for bait and fish feed, the worm filled sand beds provide the perfect growth conditions for seaweed. Previously silt and fouling organisms such as barnacles and small crustaceans created problems in the seaweed cultures, but the worms have helped to clean the water, ridding it of these contaminants.

"The worm activities create a nutrient form that is ideal for plant uptake and seaweed production."

One of the main researchers at the Bribie Island Research Centre, DPI&F biologist Dr Paul Palmer, said this was a huge opportunity for aquaculture to generate additional cash crops.

"The worms themselves are recognised internationally as one of the best diets for maturing prawns and fish,"  Dr Palmer said

"At the same time seaweed generated in water treatment facilities has a range of uses including animal and human nutrition, organic mulches, fertilisers and soil conditioning agents, and animal and marine foods."

DPI&F is now undertaking further studies to identify possible commercialisation opportunities. A Science Masters student from Sunshine Coast University has joined the project team to assist with this research.

The project is being conducted in collaboration with Pumicestone area farmers and the National Landcare Program at the Bribie Island Aquaculture Research Centre.

Member for Pumicestone, Carryn Sullivan, said this was just one example of the groundbreaking work being undertaken at the Bribie Island Aquaculture Research Centre.

"The centre is one of the area's best kept secrets,"  she said.

"Not many people would know that it was one of the first dedicated multi-functional aquaculture research facilities to be built in Australia. It plays a significant role in technological development and extension to the aquaculture industry in tropical and subtropical Queensland."
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