Tim Kurt, FFAR scientific program director, observed a soy-based tuna feed trial funded by the Illinois Soybean Assn. checkoff program in January 2018. This trial, held off the Coronado Islands of Mexico, reinforced the value of coupling sustainable feed and hatchery technology for tuna production.

Grant to establish farmed Pacific bluefin tuna hatchery

Project builds on research that developed soy-based feeds for tuna aquaculture.

Currently, Pacific bluefin tuna (PBFT) farming production relies on catching wild juvenile tuna and raising them to maturity before distributing the fish to markets, but this practice is unsustainable, as it increases fishing pressure on the wild population, according to an announcement from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR).

FFAR announced March 11 that it has awarded a $945,000 grant to Ichthus Unlimited LLC to cultivate PBFT eggs as part of a sustainable model for tuna farm production.

“Today, 98% of tuna ranching relies on wild-captured fish for the stocking of net pens. This adds to the already massive fishing pressure on wild bluefin tuna populations,” Alejandro Buentello, president of Ichthus Unlimited, said. “Hatchery-reared tuna will not only make it possible to stock cages without fishing, but it can also be used as a stock enhancement strategy to empower wild tuna populations to rebound more rapidly. It is a proactive rather than reactive strategy.”

With the grant, Ichthus will establish a hatchery in the San Diego Bay area of California to cultivate PBFT eggs and grow them to juvenile fish, which can then be distributed to tuna farms to mature, FFAR said. Acquiring tuna from the hatchery rather than from the wild population should reduce rates of overfishing and help stabilize the wild population. At only 3% of its original population, PBFT are on the verge of being placed on the Endangered Species List.

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