Hatchery follows white sea bass breeding success with California sheephead

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
19 February 2007, at 12:00am

CARLSBAD, US - They are said to be delicious, though they're quite hideous, with milky, unblinking red eyes, gaping mouths and a ridge of canine-like teeth that jut outward.

Research assistant Chris Vail (center) led a tour of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute past tanks used in the California sheephead fish spawning project.

But California sheephead fish are looking good to researchers at the Leon Raymond Hubbard Jr. Marine Fish Hatchery in Carlsbad, a nonprofit organization operated by the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.

The fish also inspire plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs” on public tours, offered by reservation.

Yesterday, about 50 members of the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation toured the facility, where they learned of the hatchery's first success – breeding white sea bass.

“This facility is not well-known,” said Walt Stringer of Carlsbad, who was on the tour. “The sea bass program and the newer program of breeding California sheephead is fascinating, and it's making a contribution to marine science.”

The group followed Chris Vail, a research assistant and hatchery technician, as he led them past the tank that houses brood fish, most from three to four feet long. They and their offspring live in a seawater system that provides an ideal environment for growth and reproduction. Sophisticated computer systems adjust water temperatures and lighting to trick the brood fish into thinking it's spawning time.

In the Juvenile 1 area, six giant blue tubs held ravenous 2-week-old fish, and in the Juvenile 2 area, a set of tanks contained black 2-inch-long sea bass, about 100 days old. That group will be weaned from a live plankton diet to a pellet diet. “There is a big learning curve in aquaculture,” said Vail, who has a bachelor's of science degree in fisheries biology.

Source: SignOnSanDiego.com