San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Big Food Fish Can Help Feed the Future

Big beasts that have been forced to evolve for human benefit are called domestic animals. Domestic food animals have changed the course of human history and evolved for millennia, giving us things like cows and pigs. All the big food animals have one thing in common: They live on land. But, as we all know, times are changing. Today we are seeing the dawn of domestic big food fish.

We tried domesticating a lot of different land animal species before we ended up with the major ones we all know today. Could it be that the same thing will happen in the ocean? Experts think it’s a sure thing. So what fish of the many being tried might help feed a hungry world?

A lot of factors influence production of domestic food animals, but ultimately they must produce quality quickly and cheaply. If the animal is hard to breed or difficult to raise, does not taste good or is delicate in nature, its not a big food domestic.

Two fish are fins apart from the rest of the wannabe maritime domestics. Their names vary depending on where in the world you are, but the species are the same: Seriola rivoliana and Rachycentron canadum. We could trademark them as “Tico Tuna” and “Caribbean Salmon.”

Tico Tuna goes by Almaco jack, kahala, longfin yellowtail, Songoro amberjack and medregal, while Caribbean Salmon is known as black kingfish, black salmon, ling or cobia.

Hawaii’s Kona Blue Water Farms, a world pioneer of open-ocean farms, markets the common fish that divers and sportfishers in Costa Rica call Almaco jack as Kona Kampachi. Because many people cannot tell the difference between the taste of this fish and that of albacore tuna, the meat meets the standards of the discriminating sushi connoisseur and also tastes great prepared any other way. This fish is way easier to raise, harvest and make money from than tuna, which seem to be our planet’s default favorite fish. Farming Tico Tuna would be far more sustainable than Costa Rica’s current myopic tuna, dolphin, shark and ray-killing machines, the tuna dozers, that destroy our national heritage every day in the rarely seen offshore Pacific pelagic.

We need look no farther then Caribbean Panama for pioneering offshore blue farmers of a species that was called black kingfish by some of Costa Rica’s Caribbean fisherman back when we still had these fish. U.S.-based Open Blue Sea Farms spent a lot of energy figuring out that this fish is one of the major players in future food. Similar in appearance to sharks, black kingfish are big, tasty enough for sushi and quick and easy to produce in blue farms. As Costa Rica’s Caribbean has hardly any big fish left due to massive overfishing, farming this fish would reduce pressure on the few remaining wild fish while providing more habitat. In other words, fish farms might save Costa Rica’s Caribbean fisheries from switching to jellyfish to survive, as has happened in other places where fisheries have collapsed, like North America’s cod stocks.

These obvious choices for the future of big fish domestication also can be raised without antibiotics, hormones or mercury, making them healthier for people and the planet. Grown together with shellfish, seaweed and smaller fish, blue farmers can mimic a natural ecosystem that absorbs one species’s waste while producing food for other species, like us. The farms would be far out to sea, out of sight from the beaches and islands that support the economy with tourism. Surfers can chill out because the farms would have no effect on waves, and surfers love sushi. Fishers would catch more fish around the farms, as they are proven fish-attracting devices.

Sustainable pelagic blue farming seems like a much better option than buying fish from Panama and Hawaii, or eating more jellyfish.

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