Overfishing of the wild stock and high demand for the fish has made the tautog species an ideal candidate for finfish aquaculture. Also known as blackfish, tautog are native to the Northeast coast of the United States, and are highly sought after by recreational and commercial fishermen due to its desired flesh quality for human consumption.
Michael Coute, who is pursuing his master’s degree at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST), has been awarded $14,536 by Northeast SARE for his research project titled “Demonstrating the Importance of Behavior and Feed Delivery on the Growth Performance of Tautog (Tautoga onitis) in Recirculating Aquaculture Systems.” “Addressing food security in the United States with environmentally ethical and sustainable seafood will feed a resurgent blue economy and blue minds,” says Michael who is working under the guidance of his advisor Dr. Pingguo He at SMAST.
The project aims to improve feeding strategies for finfish aquaculture by incorporating fish feeding behavior. “By evaluating three different feed delivery systems, we will gain valuable insights into the rhythmic feeding patterns of tautog. Farm-reared tautog will provide an environmentally sustainable wild fish substitute to relieve the currently stressed wild population while providing regional aquaculture farmers with a local finfish product to bring to market,” says Michael. His research will also provide valuable contributions to regional finfish aquaculture development and to the global scientific community on daily feeding patterns and feeding behavior of tautog.
The United States imports more than 90% of its seafood for human consumption and is ranked 17th on the world scale production of aquaculture, according to NOAA Fisheries. “With this information in mind, creating a sustainable, local, market-ready finfish product is essential for the expansion of the aquaculture industry in the US,” says Michael. This project supports SARE’s mission to provide new strategies in aquaculture feed management, with an aim to increase business and enterprise opportunities while improving fish production and fish production efficiency.