Thursday, November 25, 2010


Fantastic article starting on the cover of the growing famous Belize Ag Report,to do with the science of the COBIA fish farming hatchery in Belize.
As a former Marine Biologist ( self taught ) and former publisher of 3 booklets on British Honduras Commercial Fishing stocks,( still classics, but out-of print ) the technical aspects of the Fish Hatchery article in the recent Ag Report were way over my head.
The science read more complicated than that of astro physicists, tackling the more simple problem of landing a MARS lander on the planet Mars. I learned a lot of new things. The only thing I knew about COBIA was that it was a fish found on the Pacific Coast of Central American countries. In the article they say it is found locally on this Caribbean side. Never having caught, or seen this pelagic fish before in my 55 years to do with commercial fishing I found that fascinating. The COBIA is a pelagic fish. Meaning it is always swimming and will strike only food that is moving. Like cats, the instinctive reaction is strike a movement. If you sit still, the fish is not interested.
The article in the AG Report is by Feucht/Robinson. The research excellent and informative for the hatchery part of this COBIA FISH FARMING project. I´m still wondering how the fish farming project survived when Hurricane Richard passed directly over them recently. There has been no media reports, film, stories or photos. I only hope they survived as a commercial operation. We need more of this in Belize.
There is a lot of complicated technical scientific detail in the article, which is to be continued next issue of the Ag Report. I can only admire and gape with my mouth open in AWE at the science involved. This has got to be SECOND TO NONE for science anywhere in the world. They have a fascinating process at the hatchery,( about 15 miles South of Belize the port ) which has to go through some very sensitive TIME spaced windows of opportunity, to be successful. The biology is out of this world, at least for me.
What I found really neat, was that COBIA are genetically born to only strike a moving food target. The fingerlings have to actually go through a Community College FISH EATING training educational course to learn to eat from food pellets. Mind you we are not teaching humans here, we are teaching FISH to by-pass their inherited genetic survival traits that are hard wired into their brains. The process is called WEANING. They are taught to recognize food pellets as natural food and learn to strike them with their mouths, or they would in a fish farming environment otherwise die of starvation. There is a long 15 to 16 day process, carefully TIMED, to induce spawning and fertilization by males. The window for fertilization is only one minute by the male. On a par some women say with their husbands. ( joke! ) The resultant eggs are harvested 12 hours later as they float in the tank. This occurs at SUNDOWN. The sun goes down in the tropics very rapidly. About a 20 minute window.
The eggs hatch in 24 hours at 86 F temperature. I myself do not like swimming in water less than 82 F. Cell division occurs in another 12 hours and you have an embryo and in another 12 hours you get your larvae stage. The larvae feed on the yolk sac for about 3 days. These infant fish then feed on a tiny algea like product similar to plankton. The whole thing is measured in micron sizes. They then are fed ARTEMIA,or brine shrimp. Very small pieces about 160 to 400 microns,which in turn are hatched from dehyrdated cysts and are commercially made and imported. You stick them in water from a can of the cysts they hatch immediately. The process of going from metamorphosized larvae over 10 days to post metamorhposized larvae which takes 10 to 25 days post hatch,to a fingerling takes 30 to 40 days. Once on pelleted feed they become juveniles. Whoever figured this biology out are a genius, for commercial operation.
In 30 days they weigh about 1 gram. They are cannabilistic. By 40 to 50 days they are 3 to 4 grams in weight. This Belize COBIA hatchery produces 200,000 fingerlings a year. They could easily produce a million fingerlings.
COBIA was selected for the meat. They are one of the fastest weight gaining fish in the world. They gain weight three times faster than Atlantic Salmon.
I can hardly wait to get the next article from AG REPORT on this fish farming operation. From here they are going to describe the netted fish farming system.
Man o Man! Wish I was younger, I could sure get into this sort of thing as a commercial enterprise. Wonder if they sell shares of stock in the company? The opportunities for business in Belize are endless.

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