First tuna hatchery planned for U.S

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Tuna hatchery to be the first in U.S

US firm Ichthus Unlimited reveals plans to construct what will be the first tuna hatchery in North America in the San Diego Bay area. This will be the third of its kind in the world.

A new grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and ongoing support from the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program will allow Ichthus to establish the hatchery project, led by the latter’s president, Alejandro Buentello.

It will cultivate Pacific bluefin tuna eggs, raise them to juvenile fish and distribute them to tuna farms to be raised to market maturity. “This aquaculture system will improve the sustainability and quality of tuna production. It also will stimulate economic growth, as bluefin tuna species alone generate an estimated value of $2 billion to $2.5bn per year globally,” the firms said.

“High global demand increases tuna value and induces overfishing of wild stocks,” said Buentello. “The tuna ranching industry is constrained by a stringent quota system that limits the amount of wild tuna they can catch to stock in oceanic cages. With ISA support, we successfully developed soy-based feed that can be commercially manufactured.”

“Now, we have the knowledge and ability to take the next step,” he continued. “Closed-cycle aquaculture, combined with sustainable diets, offer the best opportunity to prevent wild tuna stocks depletion while meeting global demand.”

Sally Rockey, FFAR executive director, said bluefin tuna aquaculture represents a major, new high-value market for US farmers, but that there is much science to be done to produce the fish entirely under farmed conditions.

“This research has the potential to not only stabilise the wild population, but also create economic opportunities in farming the delicacy.”

Ichthus will build on technology and experience of the two other existing Pacific bluefin tuna hatcheries and add knowledge of formulated feed to lead a breakthrough in sustainable tuna production, it claimed.

The hatchery will allow tuna to be raised with sustainable feed from very early growth stages. According to Mark Albertson, director of strategic market development for ISA, the checkoff program has been funding sustainable feed research with this goal in view.

For the past three years, Buentello has led ISA-funded research to develop sustainable soy-based diets for tuna. The nutritionally dense soy-based diet improves feed conversion rates, reduces waste, and improves meat quality, he said.

The researchers tested various soy-based diets for larval Atlantic bluefin tuna in Spain, where survival rates improved at least 30% compared to other diets, said ISA. Juvenile yellowfin tuna in Panama land-based facilities also tested formulated feed options.

Building on these experiences, trials with mature, ranched Pacific bluefin tuna in ocean net pens in Mexico confirmed the viability of the soy-based diet. The formulated diet decreased the feed conversion ratio from 28:1 with wild-caught sardines to 4:1, and reduced the amount of fishmeal and fish oil in feed by tenfold, ISA claimed.

Editor: AquacultureList

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