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Sablefish – New species, fresh challenges


November 5, 2013
By Erich Luening

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Hatchery Manager of Sablefish Canada Hatchery veteran

By Erich Luening

Marine hatchery manager and designer George Nardi is a long way from Great Bay Aquaculture, the marine fish hatchery he founded in the US state of New Hampshire in 1995.

 Earlier this year, Nardi joined the team at Sablefish Canada, in British Columbia, Canada, as hatchery manager, raising the deepwater Pacific species in the company’s facility on Saltspring Island.

 With farm operations on the Northwest coast of Vancouver Island, Sablefish Canada is one of the world’s few producers of farmed sablefish (also known as black cod).

 After 10 years of research and development, the company has been providing continuous weekly shipments of fresh sablefish to white-table cloth restaurants in North America, Japan and Hong Kong for over four years.

 As a result of an expansion of hatchery and farming operations and completion of recent financing, the company increased its farm inventory to around 700,000 fish in 2012 and wants to reach an annual production of over one million sablefish per annum over the next several years.

 Nardi acknowledges that he has never raised sablefish before. Few have.

 “No, I had not worked directly with the fish before, but was familiar with its culture,” he told Hatchery International. “There is always a learning curve with something new, but after 18 years and having worked with seven marine species at the hatchery level, one becomes a quick study. There are numerous similarities to Atlantic cod and some to cobia.”

 “As with any new species, the focus is on the reliable and consistent production of quality juveniles year round,” Nardi said. “…and a broodstock program that will go with the implementation of a good breeding program, reduces the cost of production through shortened time to harvest and increased disease resistance.”

 Bruce Morton, president of Sablefish Canada, said he met Nardi at a marine fish workshop in January, 2012.

 “I introduced myself. We had lunch and we talked for a couple hours on hatchery fish production,” Morton explained. By January of this year, Nardi was hired and living thousands of miles from his previous home on the U.S. East Coast in New England.

 Morton praises Nardi as having the right background for producing Sablefish.

 “It’s wonderful,” he said. “It’s a perfect fit because we have a high value fish and he has raised seven other marine fish so we figured he could grow an eighth marine fish out here.”

 “The reason we hired [Nardi] was because we wanted a fresh look at our production,” he said. “We said: ‘here is the hatchery, George. Tell us what you need and whatever it is we just ask that it produces a lot of fish.’”

 Morton confirmed that the company is looking to change their hatchery operations under the leadership of Nardi. However, both Morton and Nardi kept their plans to change and improve operations at the current hatchery a secret for now.

 When asked if he has some ideas to change or improve hatchery operations at Sablefish Canada, Nardi kept it simple.

 “Yes, at the moment these are all a work in progress,” he said.