News last update:6 Aug 2012

Sea fish cobia able to grow in freshwater

A Virginia company is using a patented technology to produce a fast-growing, high-yielding marine fish made its debut at the International Boston Seafood Show.

The freshwater-raised cobia is the next chicken of the sea, one that will fill growing consumer demand for marine fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids without burdening the ocean's already depleted fish stocks," says Bill Martin, chairman Virginia Cobia Farms in Saltville.
 There's one other plus.  Virginia cobia is raised in tanks and its feed components are carefully monitored, so there's no risk of mercury content, which is a growing concern in some marine species.

One spot 
Martin eventually plans to produce up to 200 millions pounds of cobia a year at his Southwestern Virginia farm.  That may not sound like a lot when compared to the 600 million pounds of catfish produced in the Delta and other southern states. "But 200 million pounds is a heck of a lot of fish coming from one spot," Martin says.
That "one spot" is Saltville, Virginia, a small town in an economically depressed area of the state that stands to gain lots of jobs from the upstart company. Last fall, Governor Timothy Kaine estimated that Virginia Cobia Farms would create 60 new jobs for the region.

Patented technology
The technology used to raise the fish is patented by MariCal, a privately held animal health and nutrition biotechnology firm that discovered a way to raise saltwater species in low-salinity fresh water, without compromising taste, texture or nutritional content.  
But there is no magic to the process, insists Dr. William Harris, a co-founder, president and chief scientific officer of MariCal.  
He notes that many marine fish naturally adapt to variations in salinity and that some species, including salmon, spend part of their lives in fresh water. MariCal's patented technology involves a protein that serves as a calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR), which Harris describes as a "molecular thermostat." "We don't do anything to the fish. There are no genetic modifications, no antibiotics and no hormones. We're simply signalling this natural sensor. It's sort of like putting your hand over a thermostat to raise the temperature reading.  You're not doing anything to the thermostat. You're simply triggering a response." 

International show 
Thomas says going to the International Boston Seafood Show helped Virginia Cobia Farms reach two product-development milestones — to establish the company's presence in the market and, more importantly, "to be able to survey the market so we fully understand how to position our product and meet the consumer's needs."

Related websites:
Blue Ridge Aquaculture
Virginia Cobia Farms

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