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Patagonian toothfish, Dissostichus eleginoides. (Photo: Universidad Austral de Chile)

USD 13.5 million allocated for Patagonian toothfish farming

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 01:50 (GMT + 9)

Aquaculture in Chile has long required a diversification that includes new species that make it possible to sustainably enrich and scale competitiveness in this sector, and to this end, the country is betting on fish species and invertebrates that already have an established market.

One of the reasons for this diversification is to generate new industries and prevent an activity from collapsing if a group of species such as salmonids declines, causing a great economic debacle in society.

In this context, Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) and its associated institutions will implement Corfo Technology Program "Integral development of Patagonian toothfish farming for sustainable scaling and strengthening the competitiveness of the Chilean aquaculture cluster", for a total of CLP 8.9 billion (approximately USD 13.5 million).

The main objective of this initiative is to consolidate the technology for Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) farming - also known as black hake - through the implementation of bio-technological tools and innovations to support the integral development and scaling of the cultivation, based on a robust bio-economic model.

For this program, the UACh has managed to bring together highly specialized capacities. The universities of Santiago de Chile, Catholic of Temuco, and of Concepcion are fundamental partners. In addition, of these institutions there are two associated companies: Fish Vet Group SPA and Agroindustrial CMA SpA.

"This is the largest program, in terms of funding and performance time, adjudicated as an institution responsible for our University in the aquaculture area, a discipline in which our Institution has had excellent results both in the implementation of scientific technological initiatives, associativity with companies, and publications with high national and international impact," stressed UACh Research Director Dr. Hans Richter.

For his part, the director of the Program and an academic professional of the Institute of Marine and Limnological Sciences of the Faculty of Sciences, Dr. Luis Vargas Chacoff, commented that one of the impacts that this species farming will have is that the new business options are opened with all the benefits this brings to Chile.

From the promising advances achieved through previous projects, where Patagonian toothfish juveniles have been produced in experimental scale farming systems (from wild breeding fish kept in captivity), a number of knowledge gaps that need to be overcome have been identified to give way to a viable technical and economical projection, which supports the productive scale of this species farming.

For the alternate director of the Program and academic of the Institute of Biochemistry and Microbiology of the Faculty of Sciences, Dr. Rodolfo Amthauer, this project presents an extremely interesting challenge, since the central objective is to achieve the sustainable cultivation of a species that habitually live 1000 metres deep and whose biology has been little studied.

"Therefore, the program will develop a series of projects that will provide new knowledge regarding aspects of the reproductive physiology, pathologies and immune system of the fish, nutrition in the different development stages, among others. All these projects have a biotechnology approach to generate knowledge directly applicable to the Patagonian toothfish breeding and cultivation," said Dr. Amthauer.

"Patagonian toothfish farming is promising because it is a species that has certain characteristics that help it to be cultivable, always ensuring that it is in conditions relatively similar to its environment. They are fish with a slow metabolism, which makes them present good adaptability to the farming ponds, not stressing this as much as other species," he added.

Patagonian toothfish - also known as Chilean seabass -is an endemic species or native of Chile, which has a very interesting international market. It is a species of high economic value, with prices ranging from USD 20 to 35 a kilogram, while the price of salmonids does not exceed USD 8 a kilogram.

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