Monday, July 27, 2020

Five Species To Diversify EU Aquaculture

From The Fish Site, July 27:

Five potential game-changers for EU aquaculture
The EU’s attempts to diversity its aquaculture production have met decidedly mixed results to date, but aquaculture producers have a number of overlooked, yet impressive, native candidates to contend with.
The European Union (EU) is known and respected for its high-quality products, stringent sustainability measures and good consumer-protection standards. Its aquaculture sector accounts for around 20 percent of its overall seafood production and employs 70,000 people. But is the union putting its roe in too few baskets?

Instead of diversifying and experimenting with new species, the EU aquaculture industry is concentrating on just a few species, such as salmon, seabass, seabream and trout. This can be risky when market prices fluctuate or if species-specific diseases break out.

Increasing aquaculture diversity by investing in the culture of native fish species is a sound business solution. It can revitalise the industry while introducing more competitive and sustainable products. The Fish Site’s Jonah van Beijnen and Gregg Yan present five potentially game-changing native species for European aquaculture operators.

Always popular and highly valued across the Mediterranean region, groupers range in size from 20cm to over 2m. They are traditionally caught wild using nets, traps and baited hooks, but rising global demand, declining natural stocks and a more sustainable mindset has forced the industry to shift from wild-caught to farmed fish.

The Mediterranean has two good grouper candidates. The dusky grouper (Epinephelus marginatus) reaches 1.5m in length and tips the scales at up to 60 kg, while the smaller white grouper (E. aeneus) reaches 1.2m and weighs up to 25kg. Both are highly sought after by both commercial and game fishers as they fetch between €20 to €25 per kilogram in local fish markets, leaving wild stocks at an all-time low.

According to a recent study, landings of dusky grouper have declined by 86 percent in the past 24 years. Dusky groupers are now listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable, while white groupers are considered near threatened.

While groupers are not yet cultured in Europe, their culture and trade is in full swing in Asia. Around a dozen grouper species are now being raised using hatchery-produced seedstock. In 2015, production peaked at 155,000 tonnes, with a total farmgate value of $630 million (Rimmer and Glamuzina 2019).

While most farmers grow groupers in marine cages, more companies are shifting to recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). A China-based company called RecircInvest Biotech, for instance, has been operating a model grouper farm since 2013. Farming Mediterranean grouper should be fairly easy, as culture protocols are similar for Asian species. The lethargic fish don’t require much space for swimming, perfect for RAS farms. Moreover, their feed conversion ratio (FCR) has, over time, been brought down to between 1 and 1.1.

A big obstacle is that Europe currently has no grouper hatcheries, though Turkey is keen to test the waters. In the past, Kilic produced over 100,000 fingerlings annually for internal growout purposes. RAS-type grouper aquaculture is definitely a great way to alleviate pressure on wild grouper stocks while catering to Mediterranean consumers....