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Pelagic Fish Farming (Yellowfin Tuna and Cobia)

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Fellow Bass Fishermen,

I'm currently in Panama with the University of Miami Aquaculture program traveling to research facilities and fish farms throughout the country. We've spent a week at Achotines Laboratory, a research-based facility which breeds yellowfin tuna in captivity. Additionally, we've been working at Open Blue Sea Farms, a cobia grow-out facility that's been recognized as a model for sustainable seafood production.

(*edited - we don't allow blogs or forum links here - TimS)

Thanks for reading,

Rob Jones
post #2 of 12
Rob, that sounds like the trip of a lifetime icon14.gif If you'd like to share your exploits, you are more than welcome to do so here - but please don't post links to other sites. You can post anything you'd like about your trip here - except links to other sites smile.gif

post #3 of 12
Hi Rob!

That's really interesting. I listened to a story on the radio about fish farming. It was an interview with a writer that just wrote an article for Time Magazine on aquaculture. They discussed raising large, top predator fish like tuna on farms, but said that it wasn't possible because of the huge amount of small forage fish that would be required. The way I understood it, it wouldn't be economical because the amount of money it would take to catch and feed the amount of forage fish needed to raise a tuna wouldn't produce enough tuna meat to make it profitable. Plus, is there any concern about getting around the biological needs of those fish to swim great distances - which I would imagine would have a direct connection to their physical condition and meat quality? Salmon are raised, so I guess its possible, but I also know salmon farms have a lot of issues regarding huge amounts of waste (similar to a livestock farm), and parasites within the farm raised that can get out and infect wild populations.

The coolest thing was they also discussed cutting edge sustainable fish farming where the farmer basically creates a mini ecosystem with multiple species of food organisms being raised. The idea is that they each balance out some of the environmental concerns. For example, a farmer would raise fish, lobster or crab, maybe mussels or something - all in one "farm." So the crabs may pick up left over food that is fed to the fish and would otherwise foul the water, and the mussels would be filter feeding and hopefully improving water quality further.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on this stuff. I bet aquaculture is going to be a growing industry and I hope we can get it off on the right foot and keep environmental concerns and sustainability in mind. From national parks to marine reserves....cattle farms to tuna farms....

Thanks a lot!

post #4 of 12
neat stuff Rob.

for those of you interested in reading a pretty comprehensive and entertaining book on fish farming and its many impacts (positive and negative) i VERY highly recommend reading Four Fish by Paul Greenberg. very good current account of a portion of the world fisheries market.
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your feedback guys. Joe, your comments are good ones. True- right now there are a number of concerns involving the farming of top level predators such as tuna and aquaculture in general- dependence on forage fish is certainly one of them. However, there is a huge economic incentive for fish farms to decrease the amount of forage fish used in the feed- Feeds account for 60% of fish farm operation costs. Progress is being made, fishmeal and fish oil inclusion rates in fish feeds are declining linearly.

The tuna "farming" that currently exists is not really aquaculture at all. In the Mediterranean wild fish- often sub-adults- are captured and put into fattening pens. This practice is not sustainable. Our research at Miami has the goal of closing the life cycle of tuna aquaculture- raising the fish from egg to market. This may be the only way we can save the wild bluefin tuna.

What to you refer to as "ecosystem" aquaculture is known in the industry as Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) . This is a great idea- and the"dream" of many aquaculture with a sustainable vision," but no one's been able to make it economically viable. Israelis are making headway with Tilapia, algae, and molluscs. We've attempted to do a version of this in Puerto Rico with cobia, spiny lobster and mussels, but the project failed because there wasn't enough nutrients emitted from the cage to sustain the mussels. Others have had problems with shellfish spreading diseases to fish in the cages.

Effluent waste is another issue in aquaculture. There is a movement in the industry to move cages offshore where the environment is more capable of assimilating these wastes.

It's clear that we can't produce enough wild fish to fulfill demand- fish farming may be the only way to fulfill the supply. We gotta make sure we do it the right way.
post #6 of 12
Very cool! Thanks for the feedback. This weekend I was out and picked up the latest issue of Time. The fish farming article is the cover story. You guys would be into it for sure. Good luck in your work!
post #7 of 12

Very interesting. I didn't know how extensive farming Yellow fin is. I'm a Yellow fin broker based in California. How long away are you before there will be any quantities to export.

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Howard, the facility in Panama is strictly a research facility, so there is no intent of commercially producing the fish there. However, the Japenese government has recently donated a significant amount of money to put grow-out pens near the laboratory to test yellowfin growout. The project seems to be interested in using Yellowfin as a surrogate species for Bluefin aquaculture, and for commercial yellowfin production per se. I'm only aware of one commercial yellowfin aquaculture facility, which is in Indonesia, but I'm unaware of the status of that project. There was another in Ecuador which never got off the ground. In short, I don't expect to see farmed yellowfin on the market in the short-run. PM if you you want to discuss further.
post #9 of 12

Your probably right. I did come across a company in Spain that is presently farming Yellow fin. I let you know what I can find out.


post #10 of 12
Jonesdq- I'm a biologist that is interested in any opportunities within this project. Shoot me a private message when you get a chance.

How has the Achotines Laboratory dealt with larval predation?
post #11 of 12
Very good point Rob,the flesh color is the major issue when you farm yellowfin.
I own a company in Mexico and has started a yellowfin tuna farm,after studying all I could find,I still don't have the answer
Regarding the flesh in the end.
What I know is that when sea temp is high , flesh gets pale.
The stress of the enclosure could play a role in it too.
I just put some fish in the pen so I don't know yet.
One thing for sure,pale or not they taste the same,it's just that the us market is used to red,but Japan might be interested in something different,as usuall hah
post #12 of 12
Had no idea anyone was doing YFT,apart from this crazy project in hawai if you have infos on their result,also on the fed they are using,that could help me out with my new venture.
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