FFAR Grant Establishes Pacific Bluefin Tuna Egg Hatchery

  • Advanced Animal Systems

Project Has Potential to Blow Tuna Market Out of the Water

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 11, 2019) – Currently, 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 & 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.

“Today 98 percent of tuna ranching relies on wild-captured fish for the stocking of net pens. This adds to the already massive fishing pressure on wild bluefin tuna populations,” said Alejandro Buentello, president of Ichthus Unlimited, LLC. “Hatchery-reared tuna will not only make it possible to stock cages without fishing, but it can also be used as a stock enhancement strategy to empower wild tuna populations to rebound more rapidly. It is a proactive rather than reactive strategy.”

Ichthus Unlimited, LLC will establish a hatchery in the San Diego Bay area to cultivate PBFT eggs and grow them to juvenile fish which can then be distributed to tuna farms to mature. Acquiring tuna from the hatchery, rather than from the wild population, should reduce rates of overfishing and help stabilize the wild population. At only three percent of its original population, PBFT are on the verge of being placed on the endangered species list.

Bluefin tuna aquaculture represents a major new high-value market for US farmers, but there is much science to be done to produce the fish entirely under farmed conditions. This research has the potential to not only stabilize the wild population, but also create economic opportunities in farming the delicacy. Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
Executive Director Emeritus

As the “holy grail” of aquaculture, bluefin tuna can sell for tens of thousands and occasionally millions of dollars per fish. It is estimated that bluefin species products generate approximately $2-2.5 billion in value worldwide each year. Increases in tuna production would also create jobs and economic gains, particularly for coastal communities in California and the Gulf of Mexico. This innovative research has the potential to reduce the overfishing of PBFT, aid in restoration efforts and stimulate economic growth.

Despite the popularity of PBFT, few indoor facilities in the world have the expertise needed to raise PBFT from eggs. The team at Ichthus Unlimited, LLC will collaborate with these indoor hatching facilities and leverage their combined knowledge to successfully implement this practice.

FFAR has convened world-renowned experts to develop a practical approach that enhances PBFT egg production and subsequently, produces more tuna. The private-public partnership includes Ichthus Unlimited, the Illinois Soybean Association, Texas A&M University and the Spanish Institute of Oceanography.


Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

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