May 16, 2017 02:35 PM EDT
Researching the sablefish near Seattle, at the federal marine research station, scientists are trying to find some ways to make it easy and efficient to breed fish. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is trying to provide support to marine aquaculture so that the international demand for seafood can be met.
You can find some dark, gray fish in a cold environment here that can keep it well-maintained for sablefish larvae. With the help of ultrasound, scientists can survey an anesthetized sablefish in order to discover its gender as well as its eggs. If the expert squeezes out some of the tiny, translucent eggs into a glass beaker, he can even fertilize them.
These sablefish eggs, if fertilized externally, can be grown in bigger tanks indoors and also floating net pens within Washington's Puget Sound. Such eggs could be employed for research, according to ABC News. The average international per capita consumption of the sablefish has shot up to 43 pounds (20 kilograms), according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It might even expand in a few years.
Sablefish is in high demand for its "rich, buttery flavor." It is thus also called "butterfish." It has a rather delicate texture and is also called the "black cod," even if it is not part of the cod family. It is a deep-sea fish and can live at a depth of 5,000 feet in the ocean, according to This Fish.
NOAA affirms that aquaculture can help to ease some of the pressure on fishing populations and instead feed economic growth. In the West Coast, mostly in Alaska, fishermen are able to catch millions of pounds of wild sablefish annually. However, there is no commercial sablefish net-pen farming in the U.S.
Sablefish are the species that live in the northeast Pacific Ocean and are given a high value in Asia for their beneficial nutrients as well as their delicate flavor. The fish could be "grilled, smoked, poached, roasted or served as sushi".
Michael Rubino, Director of the NOAA aquaculture program, observed that strict environmental rules need to be put into place in order to farm fish in the U.S. However, there are many that are wary about large-scale farms, which seem to be potential threats to wild fish as well as the health of oceans. Many commercial fishermen are also cautious about competition from rivals over the sablefish.
Robert Alverson, executive director of the Fishing Vessel Owners' Association agreed that losing sablefish is part of the threat to his organization. His Seattle-based group represents 95 commercial fishermen in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and California.
"Our fear is that science isn't going to stay in the U.S., and it will be exported to a Third World country where people work for a few bucks a day," Alverson said, regarding the research related to the sablefish. "They'll raise it with low-valued labor and use our science to undercut our commercial fishery and coastal communities."
Two years ago, about 35 million pounds of sablefish, worth $113 million in the United States, were harvested along the U.S. West Coast. Of that, almost two-thirds, or about 23 million pounds (10 million kilograms), were caught in Alaska. Smaller quantities of fish were caught in Oregon, Washington, and California. Almost half the sablefish from the US was exported, with most of it sent to Japan.