Tuna Research and Development Center
Tuna are some of the highest value fish species on the market and thus undergoing extreme fishing pressure. The most valued of all the tuna species, Bluefin Tuna, are being harvested to the verge of commercial extinction. Populations have plummeted by more than 90% following intense overfishing during the past decades. Additionally, the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon Spill that occurred in known spawning grounds for Atlantic Bluefin tuna are yet to be determined. Now more than ever it has become critical to develop the ability to produce mass quantities of the various tuna species for both commercial production and possible stock enhancement. To this end, the Gulf Coast Marine Life Center will host a world-class Tuna Research and Development facility.
This unique facility will conduct spawning, larval rearing, juvenile growout trials, and will be capable of maintaining captive broodstock populations of any of the four "true" tuna species found in the Gulf of Mexico:
- Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus)
- Yellowfin tuna (T. albacares)
- Bigeye tuna (T. obesus)
- Blackfin tuna (T. atlanticus)
Many scientists believe that sustainable aquaculture holds the key to relieving the fishing pressure on tuna stocks throughout the world, while providing much needed insight into the reproductive and early life history aspects of these iconic pelagic predators. Utilization of the GCMLC state-of-the-art tuna research and development facilities, in combination with well trained staff and experienced scientists, ensures this project the best chance of success in developing economically viable closed-cycle tuna production in the United States.
Tuna aquaculture has faced a challenging past, yet this project offers a promising future. Currently, yellowfin tuna represents one of the best candidates for immediate success at GCMLC, due in large part to the extensive experience members of the GCMLC team have with this species. The inception phase of this facility will focus its efforts on the culture and growout of yellowfin tuna. GCMLC will use a proven maturation and quarantine facility design, making it possible to obtain consistent high-quality tuna spawns. This will allow for unprecedented tuna research and development opportunities. Upon completion of this stage of research and development, the center will have the ability to incorporate tuna into its stock enhancement program, as well as apply the knowledge and strategies gained towards the research and technology development of Bluefin tuna aquaculture. The time is right for the U.S. to become a world leader in Tuna Research Development, and the Gulf Coast Marine Life Center is key in facilitating this objective.