Juvenile hapuku Polyprion oxygeneios. (Photo: NIWA)
NIWA explores new fish species farming
Wednesday, June 16, 2010, 21:30 (GMT + 9)
The National Institute of Weather and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has scored advancements in the farming of new fish species at its facility in Bream Bay.
Bryce Cooper, NIWA's general manager of strategy, said while much of the industry had been in limbo for years, scientists are developing new technology so that, should new space be set aside, new types of farming could be set up.
"We've spent the time cracking the technical hurdles, we've cracked the kingfish hurdles, within a year we will have cracked hapuku," said Cooper, The Dominion Post reports.
It remains to be seen, however, whether there will be a market for the fish. While New Zealand King Salmon (NZKS) is able to charge a premium for its products, it is selling into a market that well understands salmon.
Though there is some market for kingfish in Japan, Cooper admitted that selling hapuku (Polyprion oxygeneios, known internationally as grouper) "would be more of a challenge".
He said NIWA wanted to prevent "a race to the bottom" by New Zealand fish farmers competing with each other on price, instead, investing in marketing the product to create premium products.
NIWA has already started testing the water, taking samples of farmed hapuku to Sydney for top chefs, apparently receiving a warm reception.
The organisation next plans to travel to markets such as London and North America.
"These are markets where if you brand your products well, and it is high quality and it has the element of sustainability, it means something to consumers," Cooper said.
He maintained that farmed fish could prove highly desirable to chefs because of the consistency it offered.
"If [famous chefs] Gordon Ramsay or a Jamie Oliver can be guaranteed to be getting a top-quality fish all year around, that's what they're after."
The plan is for NIWA to form partnerships with the private sector to invest in commercial operations.
Aquaculture New Zealand chairman Peter Vitasovich said there was "absolutely" demand for the research from the private sector.
By Denise Recalde