Greener Fish to Fry

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
6 March 2007, at 12:00am

US - The founders of a Massachusetts aquaculture company believe theyve found the ideal species to raise.

We can thank Australia for Russell Crowe, Kylie Minogue, fun phrases like ”G’day mate,” our fascination with crocodiles and poisonous snakes, and most recently, barramundi, the Land Down Under’s most popular fish.

Barramundi have white bellies, silvery sides, and a tasty white flesh high in omega-3’s. In the U.S. they are known mostly amongst seafood chefs and foodies. But Australis Aquaculture, a western Massachusetts-based company that has been farming the fish in indoor tanks since March of 2005, aims to change that. Initially the company shipped 3,000 pounds of fish a week, mostly to select seafood restaurants. But currently, 20,000 pounds of Australis’ barramundi make their way weekly to restaurants and grocery stores, including Whole Foods.

Aquaculture, the practice of growing marine animals in ponds and pens, is more than 3,000 years old. Today it’s the fastest growing sector of the world’s food economy. With global fish stocks declining (a recent study predicted that the world’s wild fish will disappear by 2048 if overfishing continues at the current rate) and global populations increasing, fish farming is likely to become even more common in the coming years.

“Aquaculture is the wave of the future,” says Dr. John Volpe, a fisheries scientist at the University of Victoria, “we just have to come to some conclusion about how we’re going to execute it.”

Volpe points out that by raising fish in tanks, farms like Australis avoid environmental problems that plague coastal fish farms—when these farmed fish escape they expose wild fish to disease, compete with them for resources, and mate with them, which reduces genetic diversity. Since barramundi are used to the tropical waters of the South Pacific, even if they somehow escape Australis’ regulated, slightly salty, 82ºF tanks they won’t last long in New England’s chilly waters.

Australis Aquaculture is the result of a partnership between Stewart Graham, an Aussie businessman and Josh Goldman, a New England fish farmer. The two believe they’ve developed an ideal way to farm fish—and the ideal fish to farm. Barramundi are docile, not picky eaters, and reproduce easily in captivity. By adjusting salinity, temperature, and light Australis induces breeding year-round (fish spend about a year in Australis’ tanks, until they weigh one to two pounds).

Source: Plenty Magazine