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The reproduction of the Goliath grouper will be continuous. Research on aspects such as increasing the group of reproductive individuals continues

The Goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara) reproduction cycle has been closed in Cartagena waters

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Monday, October 26, 2020, 06:00 (GMT + 9)

The new larvae produced are being cultivated in the aquaculture laboratories of the Rosario Islands Oceanarium.

Thanks to a joint work between researchers from the Rosario Islands Oceanarium - CEINER, CENIACUA and Benchmark Genetics Colombia, the reproduction of the guasa grouper fish (Epinephelus itajara) bred in captivity that were born in 2015 has been achieved, this means that the cycle has closed of reproduction of this species.

Grouper larvae 2 days after hatching. (Photo: parquenacionales.gov.co)

This scientific advance is added to the great efforts in research in alliance with AUNAP, which has financed this research with about 1.8 billion.

The new larvae produced are being cultivated in the aquaculture laboratories of the Rosario Islands Oceanarium where they are kept and fed under the specialized care of experts in marine fish culture.

Productive cycle of a grouper. Image modified with text translation. Source: FAO. 2010.Production cycle of Epinephelus coioides

For more than 25 years, Rafael Vieira, General Director of the Rosario Islands Oceanarium, identified after many years of observation of various marine fish, including the grouper, that this fish stood out from the rest for growing very fast, in addition to being very resistant to changes in the conditions of sea water quality and grow very healthy in different environments, being a candidate par excellence to have made the decision to start scientific research processes in aquaculture in its research center in order to generate the processes for their reproduction and cultivation in their laboratories.

But this challenge was very great, since this species, despite being naturally distributed in many countries from the southern United States (Florida), the Gulf of Mexico, the entire Caribbean Sea to southern Brazil and in Africa from the Congo to Senegal, there was no successful research on the development of techniques for its reproduction and cultivation despite being a species that is also highly threatened in its natural environment due to the decrease in its populations, because it is vulnerable to overfishing and due to Destruction of their habitat. This species is threatened in the category "Critically Endangered" according to the Red Book of Marine Fishes of Colombia.

This species is in the category ‘Critical Danger’ according to the Red Book of threatened marine fish of Colombia.
Photo: Courtesy Oceanario de Islas del Rosario

The first step of the investigation was to establish the time of year in which they naturally reproduce, and after several years of observation, reproduction of the groupers was evidenced in the enclosures in the sea of ​​the Rosario Islands Oceanarium during the nights of the full moon in the month. May for several continuous years. However, these fertilized eggs went freely into the sea by the action of the currents without being able to be easily collected. To solve this, two large egg collection tanks were built that are semi-submerged in the sea, where the grouper broodstock are kept and it is very easy to collect their fertile eggs and thus take them to the laboratories and make tests of larval culture.

This has been achieved thanks to the work of a group of researchers led by Jaime Rojas, Scientific Director of the Rosario Islands Oceanarium, who has been trained in advanced techniques of marine aquaculture in the United States, Chile, Thailand, Spain, among others. , managing to condition a modern marine aquaculture research laboratory in which cultivation protocols for marine species in captivity are designed and adapted.

As a result of this, as a historical event, in May 2015, for the first time in the world, the reproduction and culitvo of the mere guasa was successfully achieved, obtaining thousands of larvae that were reared both in the laboratories of the Oceanarium and in those of Colombian Aquaculture Research Center (CENIACUA) in Punta Canoa, Cartagena. This first scientific achievement was also due to the financial support of the Government of Bolívar through the General System of Royalties.

These larvae grew to be juveniles and today they are the first generation of guasa groupers in the world born in captivity, being huge adults with a little more than five years of age that are kept in the Rosario Islands Oceanarium and also in the laboratories in Punta Canoa .

In September 2020, the first artificial fertilization was achieved, which consisted of sedating several specimens of first generation adult groupers to extract the eggs and semen to mix them and thus obtain fertile eggs that were incubated in a controlled manner, producing almost 5,000 larvae that are currently being cultivated. These larvae are the second generation of groupers produced in captivity.

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