TRANSCRIPT - Paula Sylvia
Paula Sylvia is a project manager for Hubs Seaworld Research
Why is Maricultura del Norte a sustainable operation?
In some countries,
it can be unsustainable. The tuna aquaculture industry as it is
today can be viewed as unsustainable, because the fish that they
are using for those farms are a spawning stock and go to those particular
areas specifically to spawn. In other countries, that don't have
spawning stock going through their areas at the time they catch
fish for the farms, it's more sustainable because they’re
not catching animals that are going there to spawn. For instance,
in the case of the North Pacific stock — the Pacific Blue
Fin stock — it's more sustainable than in other places in
What about the ranching operation of Maricultura del Norte?
The good side
of it is that it is still a young industry. The good sides are catching
a resource, a certain amount of tonnage of a resource, and adding
value to that resource in the end. They're not taking more fish
out of the ocean for profit. They're taking the same amount of fish
and adding value to that population and increasing the tonnage produced.
So, in effect, it's not taking any more. It's adding value to an
already existing stock that's being exploited anyway. In the case
of the West Coast, there are not any quotas for those fish. It's
not unsustainable, because they're no quotas set on that fishery
What about those quotas?
I may have misrepresented
that. Right now, I don't view it as a problem. There isn't enough
exploitation happening there for it to be a problem. However, the
boom and bust nature of this particular industry and the profitability
of it in the market are forcing a lot of people to come from all
over the world to fish that stock that has no quotas. It is going
to become more of a problem in the future.
What needs to be in place to protect the stock?
needs to be in place is a comprehensive data collection plan that
encompasses the fishery managers, the fishermen themselves, and
the aquaculturists that are operating here on this coast. Then,
a proper assessment can come from there.
sustainable now, but how about the future?
now, but because of the value of this fish, it's attracting a lot
of investors worldwide to come and operate on this coast. There
is a healthy stock here, because there are no quotas. In the future
it will become unsustainable. Not just from the over-exploitation
point of view, but also because the industry is still young. It
has to mature and go to the next phase of reproducing fish in captivity.
That's going to take some time. Until that happens, there is going
to be a period of over-exploitation happening there.
Would you like to restate that?
now, but it's not going to stay that way. For this industry to be
sustainable, it has to go to the next level of maturity. This is
true for any aquaculture industry which is closing the life cycle
of the fish.
Can you tell us about Japan?
that Japan has had as far as closing the life cycle of the Blue
Fin Tuna is very significant. The industry cannot expand anymore
without returning to the next level. They must take the closing
of the life cycle and produce hatchings and fingerlings that can
be used for stock enhancement or for commercial purposes. It's very
important because hatchery development up to this stage has virtually
been very difficult. The Japanese have solved a lot of rearing problems
that will make it easier for that technology to be transferred to
Will the hatcheries really have that great of an impact
on the stocks?
It's too early
for me to tell. I do agree with the common criticism, that it’s
hard to really assess if the enhancement is having an effect on
fisheries. Blue Fin is a very illusive fish. It would be very difficult
to track if that is working, as far as enhancement goes. However,
it doesn’t hurt. It can only help, but it’s difficult
to assess at this time.
Would rearing hatchling really be viable?
I think raising
tuna from an egg to a harvestable size is definitely a viable activity.
However, it's the size of the fish that you want to raise that’s
questionable. If you raise them to their current market size which
is several hundred kilos in some countries; that is not so viable.
It would become economically cost prohibitive if you’re trying
to feed a fish.
likely to happen is the market will change for this species in the
future. There will still be a place for large fish in the marketplace.
As this industry grows, as salmon did 20 years ago, it’s going
to be a different product that tuna can easily fit into. We can
raise a fish to 20 kilos in a year or less or more and that would
be a viable option.
Can you talk about feeding the fish in a farmed situation?
There is not
as big an impact as the criticism says there is on the forage fish.
These animals would be eating forage fish, anyway, in order to grow.
There has to be a move within this industry to move from the current
frozen fresh fish as a feed item for these tuna to move towards
a manufactured feed. For this industry to mature and grow, it has
to move into that level. It’s more efficient.
The food conversion
ratios would be more efficient on a manufactured feed versus a frozen
or fresh product that’s fed to the fish. In order for the
industry to grow and move forward, it has to move onto a manifested
pellet that will take less from the foraged fishery source. Even
though there is foraged fish used for fishmeal. From a farm management
point of view, you don’t want to be feeding trash fish to
From a health
management point of view, as far as growth rates and food conversions
go, it increases your food conversion ratio, which increases your
food costs and then decreases your product. The industry has to
move away from that in order for it to mature. It’s going
to grow to a point where there’s so much competition that
only the people that are utilizing proper farm management techniques,
which exist for all other aquaculture species in the world, well,
they have to be applied to tuna.
Two things have
to happen. Closing the life cycle, i.e. getting this developed manufactured
feed that improves the food conversion ratio of the species, and
increasing its growth performance. That is happening. It’s
being developed now. It’s under research and development phases
in other countries. It is coming. So the effect on the wild foraged
fish stock should decrease even though some of that fish is used
for fishmeal purposes for this manufacturing feed. It has to move
in the direction where in order to improve growth performance, and
everything else that defines an aquaculture species; it has to be
in that direction.
What are you saying about the impact on foraged species?
be relying on the use of foraged fish to feed their animals. Not
because it is unsustainable for the foraged fish, but because, for
farm management and health management reasons, it’s better.
Growth performance and feed conversion ratio reasons make it better
to feed your fish a manufactured pellet. It’s not a problem
for the foraged fisheries because these animals would be eating
those fish anyway to grow in the wild.
What is the conversion ratio for tuna? I've heard 20:1.
It's not 20:1.
It's not. I mean you have to spend some time doing the research
and collecting the data and exercising proper feeding techniques.
These are all the things that all farms do around the world in order
to get that data. It’s really 7 or 8 to one, if your feeding
husbandry techniques are good and sound. So, a 7 or 8 to one —
and that is a wet weight. If you dry that down — having fish
being over 70% moisture — if you dried that, it would be close
to 2 to 3 to 1 conversion ratio. Which is really good! But you have
to practice good husbandry techniques in order to get that. That’s
really what it is. In Australia, they’re doing that right
now. In other farms that don’t keep track of what they feed
or don’t really have a handle on what’s really going
on, they’re losing money and they’re losing weight on
Can you say more about conversion ratios?
The fact is
they do have good conversion ratios if you feed them properly and
with proper feeding techniques. They do have good conversion ratios.
Manufactured feed that is coming in the future will improve the
efficiency even more.
Can you address the Blue Fin Tuna aquaculture in the Mediterranean?
There are a
lot of unknowns about the industry in the Mediterranean. A lot of
people there will tell you that they’re capturing the stock
that has already spawned. In some cases that may be true, but certainly
all the fish are not spawning at the same time during the time that
they’re captured or before or after they’re captured.
I personally witnessed several vessels catching fish for farms or
not for farms that were not spent. They’re ripe and gamey.
A lot of countries
in the Mediterranean don’t necessarily have proper policing
that can have an accurate account of what’s going on there.
The farming is good. It’s good for the resource. It doesn’t
take more out of the ocean than what’s allowed. However, to
say that they’re farming a stock that’s already spawned
for a season is very inaccurate in some cases. Those fish cannot
return the next year to spawn again. They’re taking a variety
of size classes that are pooling together to come to spawn or not
to spawn within the same schools. It’s a very gray area there.
Why is catching fish, before they spawn, a problem?
stock of fish has a big debate on whether it’s an eastern
or a western stock. The fish that come into the Mediterranean on
a yearly basis are going there to spawn. Of that stock that migrates
there on a yearly basis, some of those fish don’t spawn because
of age or whatever reason which is still unknown.
However, to fish a stock that’s about to spawn, ready to spawn,
or that may spawn in that particular season is detrimental to that
stock eventually. Either you’re capturing them for a farm
and stressing them out so they can’t spawn, or you’re
preventing them from spawning in another season that they may return
back to the Mediterranean.
Why is the state of the stock even a concern?
great concern because that is one of only two known spawning grounds
for that particular species of tuna. There’s one in the Gulf
of Mexico in the United States and the other is in the Mediterranean.
To have a fishery as big, or a tuna aquaculture industry as big
as it is and growing, there is danger for that particular stock.
What’s your concern about the fish they are catching
is there are only two places in the world that have that particular
species, which happens to be the most valuable in the marketplace
today to spawn. There’s the Gulf of Mexico in the United States
and there’s the Mediterranean. With the profitability of this
business, the farming situation is growing over there. There are
a lot of countries that circle the Mediterranean with this fish.
In areas where the fish spawn, expecting an increase in the farming
activities or any fishing activities, there is danger for that particular
Could you restate your experience with fish in the Mediterranean
that have not spawned yet?
I do have personal
experience from working on purse seining boats in the Mediterranean
that were catching fish both for the farms and fresh for the market.
Those fish had not spawned before they were captured. In an expanding
aquaculture industry or fishery, there is danger for that particular
stock if you’re catching them before they’re spawned.
This is what is happening much more than what is being stated.
What do you like about tuna?
Ever since I
first started working with them, I just had a passion to work with
these fish. They’re an awesome fish. They grow fast and they
taste awesome. They’re an amazing fish that’s still
very illusive and not really that much is know about them. They’re
fascinating to me because I want to know as much as I can.
Should this fish be saved for future generations?
This fish should
be around for the future. All fish should be around for future generations.
But tuna, in particular blue fin, are an amazing animal. Nobody
should be denied access to that animal.
Please comment on the state of the industry right now.
way the industry is today, it’s not really true fish farming.
It’s feed lotting or ranching. However, the industry is moving
in a direction to domesticate the species. The industry has to move
into the future and is moving into the future to become a more domesticated
species. Closing the lifecycle and work on closing the lifecycle
is already happening in other countries. That technology will be
transferred and utilized to make the new chicken or beef of the
How about another ending?
and maturing into the future, as a domesticated industry that will
supply much needed valuable protein to a growing world population.
What are the implications of the state of fish stocks in
general to tuna?
It will definitely
affect the expansion of the tuna industry, whether it’s from
commercial fishing or farming operations. It’s bad for everything.
It only serves to support the impetus that is needed to move an
aquaculture, or any pelagic fish species, to the next level. Research
is needed on closing the life cycles in order to provide fish for
stock enhancement or farming operations.
institute does a White Sea Bass stock enhancement program, which
is really successful. We see how hard that is to track if that is
a success or not.