At the end of 2019, the Ocimer project was launched, an initiative of the Marine Research Center of the University of Vigo for the optimization of the integral culture of sea urchins. After two years of work and once this project was completed, the research team decided to continue delving into this line of study and launched Ocimer+, an eight-month extension of the initial project that included new approaches. Thus, while the Ocimer project addressed aspects related to sea urchins culture and cryopreservation, this new phase included two new lines of research: pathology and genetics. The project, which was also funded by the Pleamar call of the Biodiversity Foundation, involves several research groups of the CIM, which worked with five species of sea urchin present in the Vigo estuary.
After eight months of work, this Wednesday was held the final event in which the main results obtained were presented. These results were mostly related to the cultivation and conservation of the sea urchin, a species that is increasingly in demand both domestically and, above all, internationally, which has an impact on an increase in its auction prices.
The event on Wednesday, held in the auditorium of the Cambón building, was attended by José Manuel García, director of the Toralla Marine Sciences Station (Ecimat) and principal investigator of the project, and José Antonio Fernández Bouzas, director of the National Park of the Atlantic Islands, as well as several researchers involved in this project, who were responsible for presenting the results of the various work packages of Ocimer+, which also involved the guilds of San Xosé de Cangas and San Francisco de Vigo. According to Estévez, despite of being a short project, “it was a period of time very well used by the researchers of the CIM” that allows “once again, to show the quality of the research that is developed in this center”. Regarding the results, he emphasizes that there were “advances in the field of parasitology, genetics, culture and cryopreservation”. The leader of the project emphasized during this event that these advances “may be fundamental for the correct management and future conservation of this resource”. In the same sense, José Antonio Fernández also stated that it is important for this project to continue because “it is realistic and is committed to basic research, but with a very relevant application both in the conservation of the species and in cultivation” and reminded that the sector needs to have “basic conservation guides and data and information on this species that will allow them to respond to future needs”.
4700 specimens of five species to be studied
The project, in which ten CIM researchers worked, focused on the study of the five species of sea urchin present in the Vigo estuary, with special attention to Paracentrotus lividus, the only one that is marketed, Galicia being the main producing region in Europe. As the researcher Estefanía Paredes explains, the project was developed from a global point of view divided into four lines of study. On the one hand, the aim was to “obtain information on pathologies and parasitic diseases in sea urchins, as well as to evaluate the level of genetic diversity and reproductive isolation”. The researchers also sought to determine the optimal parameters in the larval settlement phase of P. lividus and to implement fattening diets that increase its gonadal index, as well as its commercialization period in Galicia. Another objective was to advance in the conservation through cryopreservation of Galician native species susceptible to reproduction in captivity, an aspect in which Paredes is a specialist. Finally, the research teams also had ahead of them the task of evaluating the state of the populations repopulated in the first stage of Ocimer, about 50,000 specimens on the coast of Cangas do Morrazo, and to continue collaborating in the management of populations in danger of overexploitation with the fishermen’s associations of the Vigo estuary.
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