Spanish project develops amberjack breeding program

Mari-Len De Guzman
February 14, 2019
A collaborative project in Spain is making great progress in developing and optimizing a successful breeding program for the greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili).

Known as the Seriola project, this research initiative is aimed at developing the greater amberjack as a new commercial species to diversify Spain’s aquaculture industry by enhancing the larvae stage and optimizing fattening of juveniles.

The project, which is part of Spain’s National Plans for Aquaculture, has so far completed experimental tests and has launched a series of validation trials for greater amberjack juvenile fattening.

“After having recorded good results in natural lays of greater amberjack at the Institute of Aquaculture and Sustainable Marine Ecosystems (IU-ECOAQUA) of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the resulting juveniles were sent to the premises of participating entities and collaborative partners to carry out different pilot tests,” according to Javier Roo, national coordinator of the project and chief investigator of the program at IU-ECOAQUA.

Some of the juveniles were sent to the Aquaculture Cluster in Galicia, Spain, and at the Institute for Aquaculture of the University of Santiago de Compostela, to perform pathological testing and validation in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) environment, Roo adds.

Another batch of juveniles was sent to the CTAqua Aquaculture Technology Centre in El Puerto de Santa Maria in Cadiz, Spain, to validate fattening in the Mediterranean. The company carried out the lairaging of the specimens at its facilities, and subsequently transported them to another Spanish firm, Piscifactoria de Albaladejo in San Pedro del Pinatar, in the Murcia region, for fattening trials under off-shore conditions in the Mediterranean.

“A part of the specimens from this batch remains in our premises in El Puerto de Santa Maria, in order to carry out an additional validation on the growing phase,” says Maria del Mar Agraso, technical director for CTAqua. The company’s technology centre will be carrying out validation tests using specific diet developed by the IU-ECOAQUA team. This diet includes specific functional ingredients for greater amberjack.

In addition to the existing trials, a new batch of greater amberjacks – currently in production at the IU-ECOAQUA facilities – will be sent to Acuipalma, an aquaculture company on La Palma Island, to validate fattening protocols at its off-shore premises in the Atlantic.

Diet and nutrition
The Seriola project is jointly funded by Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the European Maritime Fisheries Fund. The project is being led by researchers at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), with participation from the Institute for Aquaculture at the University of Santiago de Compostela, and the Andalusian Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research and Training.

Also part of the project are testing on nutritional profiles and diet performance of the species. The UPLGC has so far established the optimum levels of added polyunsaturated fatty acids Omega-3 for fattening diets. The university is currently assessing the potential of adding different functional ingredients in the food.  

“By carrying out these tests, we intend to tackle some challenges arising from the fattening of the greater amberjack, both under RAS systems and in cages, such as the bacterial and parasitic infections or the effect of the temperature decrease in the Mediterranean in winter,” Roo explains.

Risk assessment
The second phase of the Seriola project involves the development of a “thorough list” of risk agents that can potentially affect the greater amberjack. This part of the project is being done at the Institute for Aquaculture at the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC). They have initially found parasites as “the most frequent and more common risk” to this species.

An assessment was carried out on the anti-microbial and anti-viral capacity of a series of disinfectant agents available today. “These laboratory studies provided significant results for the industry, since from now on, we will have a major variety of disinfectants available,” says Carlos Pereira Dopazo, director of the Institute for Aquaculture and chief investigator of the programme at the USC.

“Also, the data of the efficiency rate against bacteria and virus jeopardising the cultivation of this species are very significant. Nevertheless, there is still job to do to transfer this assessment to field cultivation environments to confirm the same level of efficiency is maintained than that in the laboratory tests.”

The IA-USC carried out a live study on greater amberjack fry to determine their response to the nervous necrosis virus (VNNV). The study confirms that for certain sizes, the species may be resistant to the virus.  

Bio-chemical analysis of the different organs of the greater amberjack were also conducted to determine the effects of low salinity on animal stress and welfare. The researchers conducted the tests in a RAS environment using different salinity levels – to test for both growth and resistance to parasites. The tests determined the best salinity conditions for greater amberjacks to be around 22 ppm.

“Once the different organs are analysed through bio-chemical techniques, differences at molecular level may be determined between different treatments,” says Jose Luis Muñoz, chief investigator of the project at the Andalusian Institute of Agriculture and Fisheries Research and Training.

The progress of the Seriola project was presented during the Aqua 2018 conference in Montpellier, France, in August. The project is expected to be completed in 2019.

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