Earth Ocean Farms director Pablo Konietzko calls Totoaba macdonaldi (pronounced “toe twah ba”) an “iconic Mexican species”. Native only to the Sea of Cortez, this largest member of the croaker family could grow to 6 feet and weigh over 200 lbs. “It has excellent flesh and flavor and dresses out well,” Konietzko says.
That’s part of the reason why it has been over fished, but Totoaba are also prized for their
bladders. Asian buyers believe the bladder has culinary and medicinal properties. Poachers cut out the bladder and dump the fish carcass back in the sea to hide their tracks.
Further threatening the species’ survival is the reduction in the Totoaba’s spawning and nursery habitat. The development on the Colorado River, which has nearly stopped water flow through its delta, presented such a threat. The fish is now a protected species and on the CITES list.
EOF recently partnered with the University of Baja California, the Marine Species Reproduction Center/El Centro Reproductor de Especies Marinas (CREMES) and federal and state agencies to raise and release 1,500 juvenile Totoaba as part of a national management plan. The company intends to continue to contribute to the restoration of the species.
The company says that there are challenges to maintaining optimum conditions for broodstock, however, hatchery (60 days to 5grs) and grow-out (12 months for 2.5k) phases are straightforward.
Early feed conversion rates are 1.8 to 2.1. EOF is working on its own nutrient formulas for feed and using slower sinking pellets. A hardy species, Totoaba suit grow-out conditions in the Sea of Cortez. At present, the company is supplying the domestic Mexican market but will explore its export potential. “It makes sense to be only 1,000 miles from the US, one of the largest seafood markets in the world,” says Konietzko.
– Tom Walker