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Tuna hatchery could be coming to San Diego Bay

Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research grants $945,000 to private firm to cultivate Pacific bluefin tuna.

SAN DIEGO—An aquaculture firm based in Iowa was granted nearly $1 million to cultivate a Pacific bluefin tuna hatchery in San Diego Bay, it was recently announced.

Ichthus Unlimited was awarded a $945,000 grant to develop and sustain a farm production model for bluefin tuna. The Iowa-based company would use the funding to establish a tuna hatchery operation in San Diego. The San Diego hatchery would cultivate tuna eggs and grow them into juvenile fish. Once the fish hits juvenile status, it will be distributed to another tuna farm, where it would be allowed to grow into a more mature tuna.

“Pacific Bluefin Tuna (PBFT) farming production relies on catching wild juvenile tuna and raising them to maturity before distributing the fish to markets. This practice is unsustainable, as it increases fishing pressure on the wild population. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is awarding a $945,000 grant to Ichthus Unlimited, LLC to cultivate PBFT eggs as part of a sustainable model for farm production.”

A Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research statement on the Ichthus grant said fish grown in hatcheries and sent to farms for maturation would spare wild populations of fish and help combat overfishing.

“Acquiring tuna from the hatchery, rather than from the wild population, should reduce rates of overfishing and help stabilize the wild population,” the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research statement said.

The bluefin tuna market is capable of generating up to $2.5 billion in annual worldwide value, according to the Foundation of Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit organization established by the 2014 Farm Bill.

A March 11 tweet on the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research Twitter page (@FoundationFAR) said the Ichthus tuna hatchery in San Diego would benefit the economy.

“Tuna #sustainability practices lead to profit! The latest #FFAR grant establishes a new indoor tuna egg hatchery that will help stabilize the tuna population, boost profits and create new jobs,” the tweet stated.

An article posted on the Illinois Soybean Association website stated the tuna hatchery in San Diego Bay would be the third of its kind in the world and the first-ever in North America.

San Diego Coastkeeper, interestingly enough, expressed a few reservations with aquaculture operations. The environmental organization, on its website, lists seven possible issues with fish farming operations: feeding; sourcing of species; disease; predator and wildlife interruptions; nutrient pollution; cumulative effects; and, location of operations.

“Producing a single kilogram of high-value carnivorous marine fish such as yellow tail, cod, sea bass, or tuna typically uses two to five kilograms of wild-caught fish processed into fish meal and fish oil for feed,” San Diego Coastkeeper staff stated on its website about fish farm feeding operations. “Using wild-caught fish to feed farmed fish is incredibly inefficient from an ecological perspective and can encourage more unsustainable wild fish harvesting. Supplementing fish feed with land-based sources, like corn, soybeans, or grains, raises even more environmental concerns.”

Farmed fish, San Diego Coastkeeper staff added, might spread diseases to other, natural species while also introducing new predators in the wild and interrupting migration routes.

There are also environmental hazards caused by nutrient pollution, San Diego Coastkeeper staff added.

“Excessive nutrients … derived from residual feed, fish waste, and other products used in aquaculture contaminate the surrounding environment. This may lead to algal blooms, unhealthy dissolved oxygen levels, or ‘dead zones’ near the operations,” San Diego Coastkeeper staff continued on its explanatory page of aquaculture operations.

Tuna farming is already happening off the coast of Baja California, among other places around the world. Baja Aqua Farms, for example, cultivates tuna in aquatic farms near Ensenada.

Dr. Mark Keenum, president of Mississippi State University, chairs the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research Board of Directors. The nonprofit also has representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation.

Photo: Ichthus Unlimited

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One thought on “Tuna hatchery could be coming to San Diego Bay

  • Jean-Pierre P

    This is crazy because you will have to feed them little fish and please told us how many sardines or mackerel do you need for 10 pounds of Tuna…and also told us where do you will caught those fishes… if you take fish from the ocean it will be less little fish to eat for our locals fishes… shame on you…this is only to make money not to save the ocean

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