In an important milestone for fish breeding in the country, scientists have successfully bred cobia or Rachycentron canadum in captivity. This achievement opens a spate of possibilities for enterprising fishermen in coastal areas to breed the fish on a large scale.

This fast-growing species, locally known as Melagumeen, Mugga or black kingfish, can weigh up to 60 kg and fetch of about Rs. 300 a kg in the city, a scientist from the regional centre of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) said. “It costs more than seer fish,” he said, adding that there was great demand for cobia in the local and international markets. Besides fast growth, the fish's adaptability for captive breeding, low cost of breeding, meat quality and high market demand make it an ideal species for aquaculture.

A CMFRI release said that the captive production of cobia is on the rise in Asian countries.

At the institute's Mandapam Regional Centre, CMFRI scientists stocked male and female cobia in separate cages, and introduced a select female and two males in a single tank. Of the resultant 21 lakh eggs, 19 lakh were fertilised. In mid-March, they had 15 lakh fry, which were stocked in 15 different tanks. Scientists reported on the CMFRI website that the fry had shown a good survival rate.

The release said that the techniques for successful seed production would soon be standardised by the scientists. “The hatchery production of cobia fingerlings can pave the way for large-scale sea-cage farming of the species in the country.”

In other countries, family-owned cage farms and commercial cage farms breed cobia. It is cultured in offshore cages until they reach a marketable size of 6 to 10 kg. Family-owned farms use rectangular cages in the first and second nursery phases and transfer them to spherical cages having a diameter of 8 to 12.7 m, the CMFRI note said.

Following successful development of cobia culture in Taiwan, the activity has quickly gained popularity in southeast Asia, the Americas and the Caribbean region, the release added.

Global aquaculture of cobia has been increasing since 2003, especially in China and Taiwan. “The good flesh quality of the fish makes it one of the best species for future expansion of production. Its aquaculture combined with effective marketing can substantially enhance cobia production in future,” the release said.

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