Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fish Ranching to Replace Fish Farming?

Check out this article describing a fascinating project to train Sea Bass released into the ocean to return to a feeder station, where they will be fed regularly and eventually harvested. The goal is to replace cruel, expensive and environmentally toxic commercial fish farms with 'fish ranching' on the open ocean.

Fish training will be key if this enterprise is to succeed.


Before being released the Bass are being trained to swim to a central feeding station in response to a sound cue announcing that it is 'chow time'. When the fish have grown sufficiently large, they'd be scooped up from around this feeding station and taken to market.

We here at Fish School don't condone eating fish. But if this strategy works, at least the fish on this 'ranch' will be free to roam and live naturally, rather than being confined in cramped cages typical of huge commercial fish farms like the one shown at right. Just look at how densely the fish are packed in the cages. You could almost walk across them for Pete's sake!

The researchers report success training Bass in a large tank to congregate at a feeding station at the sound of a bell. Next they plan to move their experiments to the open ocean, in a bay near Boston, to see how many fish will return on cue after being released into the open ocean. Sea Bass are territorial fish, and don't usually roam too far, so the scientists are hopeful. They say even if only a fraction of the fish return, it could be more profitable than current commercial fish farms, because it eliminates the costs of cages and the manpower needed to tend them.

Commercial fish farming is a huge industry, with many billions of dollars in sales worldwide. Wouldn't it be great if it could be made more environmentally friendly, less cruel and more profitable through fish training?

--Dean

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