BEAUFORT — Stewards of The Future, a new regional exchange group formed by local marine researchers, held its first seminar Monday at the Duke University Marine Lab.
The group’s seminar was on fish oil production and coastal stewardship. Todd Miller, executive director of the N.C. Coastal Federation – a local nonprofit dedicated to protection the state’s coastal environment – and Tony Bimbo, technical consultant with International Fisheries Technology, were speakers at the seminar.
Mr. Miller spoke about his experiences helping his father, Ted Miller, with his research at Marine Chemurgics, a small, commercial lab he ran. Mr. Miller spoke about how his experience their influenced his decision to go into coastal conservation and to found the NCCF.
Mr. Bimbo, who has worked for 50 years in the fish oil industry, spoke about working with Ted Miller and about petitioning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow menhaden oil to be used for human consumption.
Dr. David Green, professor and extension specialist at the N.C. State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology in Morehead City in the seafood lab and co-chairman for the stewards’ planning committee, said Ted Miller’s work was some of the first done on fish oil and its impact on human health. He said that previously, all menhaden oil was sent to Europe because it wasn’t allowed for human consumption.
“Now, it’s a $25 million industry,” he said.
This seminar is the first held by Stewards of The Future. Dr. Green said the stewards’ work began in 2011, when several faculty members from local marine research institutes got together to support the creation of the Marine Biotechnology Center of Innovation at the N.C. Biotechnology Center. Members included Dr. Green, Dr. Rachel Noble from the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City and Dr. Pat Tester from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab in Beaufort.
“We successfully supported creation of the COI,” he said. “Our aim was to create the center as an incubator for businesses to help with the coastal economy. We worked so well together, Mark Phillips, director of the biocenter’s east region, suggested we form this group.”
The STF began receiving funding from the biocenter in the fall of 2012. The stewards plan to use their funding to hold two to three seminars each year on issues that are important to coastal communities.
Dr. Green said the stewards’ steering committee is open to suggestions from the coastal community.
“We want to encourage exchange between the business community and the scientific community,” he said. “We want something with a local tie that’s important to the community.”
The stewards are already planning their next seminar; they intend to hold one on aquaculture at 5:30 p.m. April 8 at the DUML Repass Center. Other topics being considered for seminars include invasive species (particularly lionfish), alternate energy sources besides wind energy, species identification for seafood consumers, water quality, ecotourism and global warming (with a potential focus on sea level rise).
While the stewards are focusing on seminars for now, they hope to expand to more projects in the future. Dr. Green said two new members are joining their steering committee: Susan White, the new director of N.C. Sea Grant, and Dr. Debora Mosca, chief executive officer of the Marine Biotechnology COI.
“That will give us more options for what we can plan in the future,” Dr. Green said.
One additional project the stewards have planned is to highlight individuals in the local area who have contributed to coastal stewardship. As part of this project, Mr. Miller and his family were presented with a certificate commemorating the work Mr. Miller’s father did in fish oil. The stewards also intend to put up a plaque in Ted Miller’s honor in the lobby of the CMAST lab.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.