Polychaete aquaculture and polychaete science: a mutual synergism

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In 1984, the commercial aquaculture of the polychaete Nereis virens was initiated in NE England, at about the same time similar developments took place in the Netherlands, both establishing alternative sources of this animal as a means of supplying existing markets for marine worms to be used as bait by sea anglers. The industry established in NE England has shown a sustained pattern of growth, and aquaculture has become an accepted means of supplying this niche market. The industry in NE England has fostered particularly close contacts with the academic sector having arisen as a transfer of Intellectual Properties from an institute of higher education (HEI) to a start up private company. The industry has subsequently sponsored a series of investigations that have stimulated fundamental research into the growth and reproduction of Polychaeta. This has resulted in development of techniques for the cryopreservation of the larvae of marine polychaetes, for photoperiodic manipulation of the time of breeding and optimisation of the growth process. The information derived from these studies also suggests a re-interpretation of the life cycle of the Nereididae. The ongoing development of commercial culture of Polychaeta is likely to give rise to further developments of a fundamental nature, emphasising the importance of effective links between centres of academic research and commercial exploitation.

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