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Stopping the Spooks: New Solution for Hatching Tuna

by 5m Editor
20 February 2009, at 12:00am

SCOTLAND, UK - A Scottish based tuna company believes it has the solution to the successful commercial propagation of tuna.

Oceanic Tuna has spent the past four years developing a system aimed at negating the detrimental spooking that leads to walling of tuna juveniles in captivity. For those that have successfully hatched tuna, and there are very few success stories of commercial merit, they have had to deal with devastating mortality rates caused when the juvenile tuna are spooked for any reason and take flight at high speed.

In the open ocean this is not an issue, but in a tank or ocean cage it often results in a fatal, high impact collision with the wall or net.

“The project was originally based in Australia” says Alex Muhlholzl, OTL’s Managing Director “but it was relocated to Scotland to allow us to work more closely with the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture.

The move to Scotland was the transition point for us, funding from investors was easier to acquire, and people had the foresight to see where the project and our methodologies could go. We have also received support from Scottish Enterprise, which has allowed us to run feasibility studies on some outside the box ideas.” The Institute of Aquaculture and OTL are developing a long term research plan covering aspects such as nutrition, reproductive physiology, health and welfare and genomics.

OTL is presently in discussions with the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) on a research project based at the IATTC research facility in Achotines, Panama. This research project will be based on technology designed and developed by OTL and will draw on Achotines’ significant successes with spawning and hatching of tuna eggs over the past 15 years.

“For Oceanic Tuna this is a huge opportunity. While most groups around the world are struggling to get tuna to spawn in captivity, let alone get the eggs to hatch, the IATTC has developed a programmeme of daily spawning at their facility in Achotines. Working with the IATTC will give us access to juvenile tuna on an almost daily basis. It will allow us to develop our technology and methodologies at an incredible rate” says Alex.

OTL has also been working with Pisces Engineering Limited, a Scottish based company who have been instrumental in design of the system and its supporting technologies, and who have been working with OTL on a modular transportable hatchery system designed for the specific needs of tuna. This type of hatchery design means that operations can be expanded quickly by adding in another module, or moved to another location if pollution or algae affect water quality.

To date the system has been tested in computer simulations and prototyping, with work being undertaken by University of Strathclyde’s Department of Design, Manufacture and Engineering Management on a robotic crash test tuna. This allows OTL to run replicable tests on equipment and systems to test for impacts as they would occur on live fish.

This, in conjunction with the planned research project at Achotines, has OTL on track for its first operational facility in Q3/Q4 2009. “With talks underway with several groups out of the Mediterranean as well as South America and the Caribbean region, there is significant interest in this technology” comments Alex. “We have plans for 2-3 hatcheries and grow-out facilities over the next 5 years, producing upwards of 50,000 MT per annum, so there is a lot of interest, not only the financial rewards but also the export dollars that this type of project injects into a region.”


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