Soybean Diets for Farmed Fish



Donald Kent
Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
San Diego, CA

Mark Drawbridge

Aquaculture Program Director
Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
San Diego, CA


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October 23, 2012

Contact: Christina S. Johnson,, 858-822-5334

What is the future of seafood?

A new video, funded by the U.S. soybean industry, takes us behind the scenes to what could become the beginning of a "green" fish-farming revolution.

Watch the video.

"The video shows folks that industry is concerned about sustainability and that research is being conducted to address potential problems with cage farming," said Donald Kent, president of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in San Diego. "Sea Grant and NOAA should take some credit for making this a possibility."

Fish farmers at the innovative Pacifico Aquaculture are raising white sea bass, yellowtail and other premium finfish species in floating open-ocean cages near Isla Todos Santos (a famous big wave surf spot) off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico. 

The farm has recently earned a "best aquaculture practices" certification for all its green efforts.

The facility has, for example, been purposefully sited near a deep-water canyon with strong cleansing currents – on the wave-protected side of the island. The result is crystal clear water without direct exposure to heavy surf. The video also shows sea lions frolicking about, while purple sea urchins and other small denizens thrive on rocky substrate on the seafloor.

But, perhaps most significant is what the fish are eating. With science, farmers are raising fish on soy-based diets. Yes, the fish are basically eating tofu instead of the little fishes in the sea. This is good news for seabirds, dolphins, tunas and salmon that rely on forage species. It's also good news for an industry that has a limited growth potential unless it develops alternative feeds, such as plant-based ones.

California Sea Grant has supported efforts to reduce the use of fishmeal and fish oil in white sea bass and yellowtail feeds. That work, led by a USDA nutritional scientist and the aquaculture program director at Hubbs-SeaWorld, showed that fish could thrive and sometimes outperform their counterparts raised on traditional fishmeal-based diets. The program at Pacifico Aquaculture will confirm whether or not plant-based diets are commercially feasible in the real world.

In related work, California Sea Grant is also now funding studies on the early life-history requirements of yellowfin tuna, another promising species for commercial aquaculture.