Aquapod pen. (Photo: Kampachi Farms)
Offshore farm complets first harvest of yellowtail
Friday, March 02, 2012, 16:20 (GMT + 9)
Kampachi Farms has announced the successful final harvest from the "Velella" Research Project raising fish for the first time in US federal waters.
This harvest has completed the grow-out cycle of sashimi-grade kampachi fish (a tropical yellowtail) in the open ocean, 3-75 mi off the Big Island of Hawaii in the Pacific, since last summer.
"This final harvest far surpassed our expectations," said Neil Anthony Sims, Co-CEO of Kampachi Farms. "The fish thrived in the research net pen far from shore, with phenomenal growth rates and superb fish health... and without any negative impact on water quality, the ocean floor, wild fish or marine mammals."
|Neil Anthony Sims
The fish were raised in a single unanchored, submersible net pen linked to a manned sailing vessel, in water up to 12,000 ft deep.
"This array proved to be very robust," said Steve Page, president of Ocean Farm Technologies, makers of the Aquapod® pen. "It withstood even extreme conditions 75 mi offshore, with winds gusting over 40 kt and swells over 20 ft."
The kampachi ate a sustainable commercial diet that used a high amount of soy and other alternative agricultural proteins instead of fishmeal and fish oil. They did not receive any antibiotics, hormones or pesticides.
Sims said the kampachi reached an average of 5.6 lbs in six months, resulting in a first harvest a three months ahead of schedule. The final food conversion ratio was 1.6:1 (1.6 lb of feed to produce 1 lb of fish).
Sims said that fish health remained terrific throughout the trial, with an overall mortality rate of less than 2 per cent, compared with a standard aquaculture mortality rate of 15 per cent. Sample testing showed that the kampachi had a fat content of 33 per cent, making them plentiful in heart-healthy Omega-3s with no discernible mercury or other contaminants.
|Ocean Farm Technologies' Aquapod pen
"It makes perfect sense to raise fish in the ocean, where they belong," said Sims. "This was a healthy, low-stress environment for the fish, and we think that this allowed them to channel their energy into growing faster."
The project required a special research permit from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Sims said this achievement represented a notable step forward in developing the open ocean aquaculture industry in the US.
"The success of the Velella research demonstrates that we can grow fish in the open ocean with no negative impact on pristine ocean ecosystems," said Sims. "We must now apply ourselves to responsibly scale up this industry, to meet the growing global demand for high-quality seafood."
Next, the company will test a single-point mooring 6 mi offshore in water 6,000 ft deep, where the pen can move freely in currents but remain within easy range of shore for supply delivery and crew rotation.
The project enjoyed the support of stakeholders including NOAA, the National Science Foundation, Lockheed-Martin, the International Copper Association, Ocean Farm Technologies and the Illinois Soybean Association, which offered some financing from the Illinois soybean checkoff programme.
By Natalia Real