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Cobia culture in Taiwan: current status and problems
I Chiu Liao a,b,*, Ting-Shih Huang c, Wann-Sheng Tsai c, ˜ Cheng-Ming Hsueh d, Su-Lean Chang e, Eduardo M. Leano a
a National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung 202, Taiwan National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Pingtung 912, Taiwan c Penghu Marine Biology Research Center, Fisheries Research Institute, Paisha, Penghu 884, Taiwan d No. 32, Nei-an Village, Siyu Township, Penghu, Taiwan e Tungkang Marine Laboratory, Fisheries Research Institute, Pingtung 928, Taiwan b
Received 18 November 2003; received in revised form 27 February 2004; accepted 2 March 2004
Abstract Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, is a widely distributed species from the Indo-Pacific waters to the southern Atlantic Ocean. In Taiwan, it is an indigenous and an ideal species for cage culture. Due to its high market value in both domestic and international markets, the technology for its culture has rapidly developed in the past few years. These include mass propagation through natural spawning of captive broodstocks, larval rearing techniques, nursery production in tanks, ponds and nearshore cages, and grow-out culture in offshore cages. Reproduction in captivity is relatively easy because sexual maturity often occurs within 2 years of culture. Spontaneous spawning occurs year around at water temperatures of 23 – 27 jC, with peak during spring and autumn. Fertilized eggs hatch within 21 – 37 h at water temperature of 31 – 22 jC. Larval growth is fast, and larvae are vitally robust and environment tolerant compared to other marine fishes. Fry can be mass-produced in outdoor ponds at relatively low cost. Weaning of fry from 20 days old onwards to pellet feeds is feasible. Nursery rearing from 10 – 30 to 1000 g can be done in either outdoor ponds or nearshore cages. Major diseases affecting cobia include bacterial (pasteurellosis, vibriosis and streptococcosis), parasitic (myxosporidea, Trichodina, Neobenedenia and Amyloodinium infestations), and viral (lymphocystis) ones. In recent years, intensive and super-intensive recirculation systems for nursery (from 2 to 100 – 150 g) were developed with survival rates of more than 90%. In nursery and grow-out offshore cages, 100 – 600 g cobia were cultured within 1 – 1.5 years when they reached 6 – 8 kg for export to Japan, or 8 – 10 kg for the domestic market. Currently, around 80% of marine cages in Taiwan are devoted to cobia culture. However, some problems still exist in cobia culture that needs to be addressed and solved to increase production. These include high mortality due to stress during
* Corresponding author. Department of Aquaculture, National Taiwan Ocean University, 2 Pei-Ning Road, Keelung 202, Taiwan. Tel.: +886-2-24623055; fax: +886-2-24634994. E-mail address: email@example.com (I C. Liao). 0044-8486/$ - see front matter D 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2004.03.007
. 2000.156 I C. 1999). Rachycentron canadum. To date. In Taiwan. D 2004 Elsevier B. 1. Chen. Broodstock management. Keywords: Cobia culture. several marine fish hatcheries are producing cobia fingerlings for stocking in nursery tanks or inshore cages. 2003). However. Grow-out. Flowchart of cobia aquaculture in Taiwan. cobia is now popularly cultured in sea cages either for domestic consumption or for export. but plunged to 1000 mt in 2002 due to high incidence of disease outbreaks and losses from typhoon damage (Fig. Total cobia production increased from 1800 mt in 1999 to 3000 mt in 2001. cobia is a prominently popular species for cage aquaculture because of its fast growth rate and comparatively low production cost. Fig. its potential for aquaculture was recognized in recent years. and consequently poor harvest. Introduction Cobia. however. increased resulting in the higher market price. 1975. and it has been cultured as a recreational fish species. Liao et al. All rights reserved.. Its culture began in the early 1990s when the technology of mass fry production was developed in 1997 (Chang et al. Nursery. 1. Marine cage aquaculture is getting popular in Taiwan where land and freshwater resources are limited (Su and Liao. The different phases of cobia production in Taiwan are shown in Fig. 1986. Liao. . is widely distributed in tropical and sub-tropical waters (Briggs. 2001). Ditty and Shaw. because of its good meat quality (Shiau. 1960. / Aquaculture 237 (2004) 155–165 transport from nursery tanks/inshore cages to grow-out cages and diseases during nursery and growout culture resulting in low survival. 2). Disease problems 1. 2001). 1999. Her et al.. Hassler and Rainville. Chen. mainly to Japan (Su et al.V. The domestic consumer acceptability. 2001. Among many species of cultured marine fish. Larval rearing. 1992).
Broodstock management and mass fry production The purpose of broodstock management is to supply good quality eggs and larvae. cobia intended for broodstock are produced from hatcheries and reared in open cages until they attain sexual maturity (about 1. Liao et al. mackerels. The eggs are then transferred to outdoor larval rearing ponds (earthen ponds. current production in grow-out cages. which generally include collection. Annual production of cobia in Taiwan. at a density of 100 fish per pond and a sex ratio of about 1:1 (male/female).2 m water depth) with well-maintained ‘‘green water’’ (Chlorella sp. broodstocks were usually collected from the wild before artificial propagation was developed.5 m depth) with flow-through seawater. Handling and spawning of mature brooders have been described in detail (Su et al. 2003). Brooders spawn spontaneously year around. 1. The fertilized eggs are collected using a seine net installed against the current created by paddlewheels. 2000. Fish are fed to satiation with raw fish (e. < 5000 m2 area . 2001). / Aquaculture 237 (2004) 155–165 157 Fig.. and domestication of broodstock. In the case of cobia. 2.. It also describes development of intensive and super-intensive recirculation system for fry nursing.I C. maturation and spawning. 2001.g. With increasing interest in cobia production. *Low production is due to high incidence of disease outbreaks and loss due to typhoons. appropriate feeds. Water exchange is minimal or unnecessary in the early stage as long as the ‘‘green water’’ is maintained. selection. Currently. This paper presents review and current status of cobia culture in Taiwan including broodstock management. marketing. squids) once or twice a day.5 – 2 years when fish weighs about 10 kg). and egg collection and incubation (Liao et al.. 1 –1. mass fry production and nursing. Liao et al. as well as problems encountered in the whole production process. Maturing brooders are selected from sea cages and transferred to land-based spawning ponds (400 – 600 m2 area. Liao. culture system in both nursery and growout cages was intensified. with a peak in spring and autumn when water temperature is maintained at 23 –27 jC. . sardines.) and abundant number of copepods. 2.
Liao et al. Size grading is undertaken once every 4 day to 1 week. Fry nursery The cobia fry are nursed in three phases (Fig.000 fish of 150 g cobias. Cobia larvae are vigorous and more resistant to some stressors compared to other tropical marine fish (e.2 to 2 –5 g (day 20 to day 45). this system was employed to produce 34.. the cobia are cultured either in outdoor ponds or inshore cages. especially during over-winter stage. 1). Feeds are provided manually to satiation five to six times daily at the weaning stage. day 75 to day 150 – 180). drumfilter. 3. Recently. specific growth. with higher preference to copepods during the first feeding stage. Results show that optimum stocking density using this system is 370/m3 based on survival. Size grading is undertaken only once during this stage. The recirculation system was equipped with temperature control apparatus. biological filter. grouper). They open their mouth and starts feeding at day 3 after hatching. and prevention of mortality due to bacterial infections. reaching 8 – 10 cm at the end of the first nursery phase. 2002). where the second and third nursery phases are carried out in the same area as the grow-out cages to avoid mortality associated with transportation stress. Survival rate at all stocking densities tested was above 95%. 2003). cobia fingerlings are reared from 2– 5 to 30 g (day 45 to day 75) in large ponds (>300 m2) with ‘‘green water’’. Larvae are reared up to day 20 with survival rate of 5– 10%. which were supplied for offshore growout cage culture. protein skimmer. In the third nursery phase (from 30 to 600– 1000 g. 250. Feeding rate on the other hand is reduced from 5% body weight (BW) for 10 –30 g to 2 – 3% BW for 100 –200 g. a recirculation system was designed for nursing cobia fry (4– 8 g) under intensive and super-intensive rearing and mass production of juveniles (100 –150 g) for stocking in offshore grow-out cages (Huang et al. It is not advisable to stock cobia juveniles smaller than 30 g in offshore cages because of their weak resistance to strong water current. In 2001. / Aquaculture 237 (2004) 155–165 Eggs hatch 21– 37 h after fertilization at temperature of 31– 22 jC. Rotifers and copepod nauplii are provided at this stage. such as in Shao-Liu-Chiu island in Southern Taiwan. Several trial runs confirmed efficiency of the system for rearing of cobia fry at high stocking density. microstrainer. Small cobia (2 –5 g) are more tolerant to transport stress than the larger ones (Liao.g. A super-intensive recirculation system was also designed to culture cobia fry at higher densities than the intensive recirculation system. At this stage.158 I C. the smaller mesh size needed for small-sized cobia prevents water current flow inside the cage. The size of the pellet feeds is increased gradually as the fish grows. and food conversion rates. the fry grow rapidly into fingerlings. Moreover. . In the second nursery phase. The first phase includes rearing the fry from 0. automatic water supply and drain system. also the necessity in occasional grading to prevent cannibalism. At this stage. Some family-owned and commercial cage farms are located in protected bays. 370 and 500 fish/m3). Size grading is usually done only once during this stage. the fry can be totally weaned to floating pellet feeds. resulting in higher incidence of parasitic infestation. Table 1 shows the result of one trial run using the intensive recirculation system at different stocking densities (125.
3.1 F 0.. 4). Survival rate ranged from 92% to 100% in the three stages.1b 1. Row means ( F S. bigger circular cages are used for the nursery phase (Fig.3 F 2.6 F 0. for convenient transfer of fish stocks from the nursery to grow-out cages.2 69. and UV sterilizers (Huang et al.1c 370 7.3 F 0. A typical family-owned cage farm is shown in Fig. Sinking and floating pellet feeds are used for cobia in grow-out cages.8 F 0. most of these cage farms integrate nursery and grow-out culture in one area. where 30 g cobia are stocked and cultured for 4– 5 months when cobia are about 800 g and ready for transfer in growout cages. For commercial cage farms.0 F 1. highest average production was 25 mt per 1800-m3 cage after 6 – 8 months of culture (personal communication).000 cobia with body weights of 120 –320 g which were then transported to offshore cages for grow-out.02b 97.2a 28. this system produced more than 80.01a 96. %) Feed conversion rate (FCR) Survival rate (%) Production (kg/m3) 7.7 F 2. 3.01b 97.1 F 0. and the third stage was 30-day culture with final weights of 100 g or larger. As mentioned earlier.0b 8.4a 0.8 F 1.1a 0. The first stage was from 4 g (initial weight) to 18 g during the first 15 days of culture.7a Values are mean of three replicates. step-wise trial runs were conducted with three stages of culture at stocking density as high as 594 fish/m3.00 F 0. 2002). . Circular cages are used for grow-out. Liao et al.2 F 0. In 2002.5 F 0.7 m in diameter and 7– 8 m depth corresponding to a total water volume of 350 – 1000 m3.2 92.2 F 4. The pelleted feeds has a crude protein (CP) content of 42– 45% depending on feed manufacturers.2d 7. Using this system. and big commercial cage farm. oxygenation unit.7 85. there are two types of offshore grow-out cages for cobia production: small family-owned cage farm.I C. which measures 8– 12. / Aquaculture 237 (2004) 155–165 159 Table 1 Growth performance of cobia in intensive recirculation nursery system at different stocking densities after 4 weeks of culture Stocking density (fish/m3) 125 Initial weight (g) Final weight (g) Specific growth rate (SGR.3a 8.2 F 1.9a 11. The stocking density and expected harvest at the nursery and grow-out stages are summarized in Fig.2d 250 7. Each nursery cage is 7 m in diameter and 5 m in depth. Grow-out Cobia are cultured in offshore grow-out cages for the final production stage until they reach the market size of 6– 8 kg (for export) or 8– 10 kg (for domestic consumption).96 F 0.1 F 1. In Taiwan.3 F 0.E.9a 20.1b 500 7. 4.6a 33. Culture period ranges between 6 and 8 months depending on the market size. The second stage was 45-day culture when cobia reached 45 –50 g.4 75.1ab 0.) with the same letter superscript are not significantly different ( P>0. where rectangular cages are used in the first and second nursery phases.8 F 0.6 F 0.94 F 0.5 F 0. Each grow-out cage measures 16 m in diameter and 9 m in depth.9 F 3.8c 7.05).7 F 1.99 F 0.02a 95. In one commercial cage farm.
3. Culture operation of a typical family-owned cobia cage farm in Taiwan. . / Aquaculture 237 (2004) 155–165 Fig. Liao et al.160 I C.
Culture operation of a typical commercial cage farm for cobia in Taiwan. Liao et al. 4. / Aquaculture 237 (2004) 155–165 161 Fig. .I C.
which can result in high mortality when left uncontrolled. Pasteurellosis. 170NT$/kg for 7– 8 kg. a viral disease (lymphocystis) is common but not fatal. depending on the weather condition. Problems 6. caused by the bacterium Photobacterium damsela subsp. bled and chilled prior to transporting to processing plants. as long as good water and feeding management are employed.. Fish are sold whole for the domestic market. The parasite Amyloodinium ocellatum also cause problems. Myxosporidean infestation was also reported among cobia juveniles (45 – 80 g) reared in nursery cages causing mass mortality (about 90% within 1 month) (Chen et al. feeds manufactured exclusively for cobia culture have higher CP as well as fish oil contents (15 – 16%). As such. dark body coloration and lower market value. 2001). problems encountered include Epistylis and Nitzchia infestations.7% BW. The stock is usually starved for one day prior to harvest. 2000). as well as intensification of the culture system to increase production. For markets other than Taiwan and Japan. The feed conversion ratio in grow-out stage is about 1.. the domestic price for cobia larger than 8 kg is 180NT$/kg (1US$ = 33NT$). especially during the onset of the winter season.162 I C. piscicida. Right after harvest. can cause blindness of cobia juveniles. the ectoparasite Neobenedenia sp. Most of the harvested produce were only sold in the domestic market. Fish are usually fed once a day and 6 days a week. Currently. virus and parasites occur in all stages of culture of cobia. which are more expensive than feeds produced for other marine fish. During the larval stage. In the grow-out stage. at a feeding rate of 0. 5. 160NT$/kg for 6 –7 kg. Trichodina infestation is also common during the nursery stage. 6. where fish are thoroughly rinsed and packed in layers of ice in insulated boxes. Diseases caused by bacteria. / Aquaculture 237 (2004) 155–165 Usually. fish over 6 kg are selectively harvested for local market or exporting to Japan. several disease incidents occurred in recent years causing dramatic reduction in production during 2002. total cobia production in Taiwan was recorded at only 1000 mt due to high incidence of disease outbreaks and losses due to typhoons.1. Harvesting and marketing After 4 –8 months of grow-out period. fish are killed. is common which. while those exported to Japan for the sashimi market are sold either whole or headless. Mass mortality is usually experienced . The feeding activity of blind cobia is highly affected resulting to slower growth. cobia is processed as fillet. In 2002. Diseases The initial success of cobia production in the late 1990s has resulted in increase in number of cage farmers. Liao et al. is one of the major problems among cage-cultured cobia juveniles (Tung et al. together with secondary bacterial infection (by Streptococcus sp. During the nursery stage.5. and 150NT$/kg for < 6 kg.).5 –0. Survival rate at harvest for family-owned cage farms ranged from 50% to 70% while that of commercial cage farms is only 30% to 40%.
6.I C. Marine cage culture is popular in Taiwan but regulations for open ocean aquaculture are still lacking (Su and Liao. Thus. thus oil spills are common. high mortality also occurs when temperature decreases to below 16 jC. 6. are also utilized for fishing and other purposes (Liao. Others Cobia is not very resistant to stressors and requires high level of dissolved oxygen because of their high metabolic rates due to their active behavior. however. As such. vulnificus and V. Most of these areas. was recommended since the development of cobia culture in Taiwan (Liao. Some policies even hinder further development of cobia culture in offshore cages. but no such improvement has yet been devised. the risk of losing stocks in offshore cages during typhoon season is high. meat often tastes oily. Liao et al. especially in Penghu islands. especially juveniles. most of the sea cages are located in Southern Taiwan where tropical climate prevails. / Aquaculture 237 (2004) 155–165 163 when outbreaks of pasteurellosis occur. especially family-owned farms. As cobia cannot survive below 16 jC. during summer and autumn seasons. Improvement in the transportation of cobia. Moreover. where water temperature may drop to a low of 16 jC during the winter season. Taiwan lose international competitive advantage for the .5 –28 jC all year round. Since one culture production run of cobia requires at least 1 year (12 months). however. Aside from the disease outbreaks and some environmental problems. However. Other secondary invaders include V. Cobia cultured in these protected areas have lower meat quality (inferior in terms of chewiness) compared to those cultured in open sea areas exposed to strong current. 2001). culture period in these sea-cage areas is longer (up to 17 months) compared to sea-cage areas in southern Taiwan (11– 14 months) where the water temperature range is 23. Low water temperature is also encountered during the winter season in the central and northern parts of the country. Environmental condition Taiwan is a sub-tropical country situated in the western Pacific rim where strong typhoons occur annually.. The government plays an important role in the overall development of the cobia culture industry.2. As such. 2001) which caused 45% loss in stocks. mortality problem during transport is still considered as one of the most serious problems in cobia culture. The first vibriosis outbreak was recorded in 2000 (Rajan et al. some cage farmers. also harbors fishing boats. The disease caused by Vibrio alginolyticus has characteristics of hemorrhagic lesions on skin and skeletal muscles.3. where water current is weak. Another bacterial disease problem in grow-out sea cage culture is vibriosis. the lack of good planning and regulatory enforcement when cobia was developed as a potential aquaculture species has led to non-sustainable production in the past few years. 2003). As a result. install culture cages in protected bays and coves. 2003). Growth of cobia is usually retarded at low temperature and sometimes. the current policy on aquaculture is somehow inappropriate for cobia cage culture industry. These areas. parahaemolyticus. thus competition for available sea area is apparent. Over-wintering is another problem for grow-out cages in central Taiwan.
researches on the development of vaccines against major bacterial pathogens (P. However. h-glucan. grading. Disease surveillance must also be strengthened and continuously undertaken to monitor disease outbreaks. etc. / Aquaculture 237 (2004) 155–165 export industry among many Asian countries which are venturing in cage culture of cobia. Marketing of cobia produce should not only target domestic market but more importantly the export market. a floorproduction volume should be identified and maintained in order to supply the import demand of foreign countries.) to enhance the nonspecific immunity of fish to various diseases. Prospects and future development Although many disease and environmental problems are faced by aquafarmers in Taiwan. Stocking of more resistant large-sized fish in offshore cages also contributed in preventing apparent loss of stocks due to diseases. only proves the profitability of cobia cage culture compared to other marine fishes. and improved formulated feeds. Therefore. Another alternative approach to this problem is the use of immunostimulants (e. This is important in order to maintain the competitiveness of the cobia export industry in Taiwan. the lack of insurance policy from the government is also of serious concern for most cage farmers. This system allows the transfer of cobia juveniles directly into offshore nursery cages in the same area where the grow-out cages are located. cobia remains to be the most popular species for culture in offshore cages. levamisole. the current innovation in intensive and superintensive nursery rearing in tanks. This is because of its fast growth. selective breeding must also be urgently employed for improving both growth and resistance to diseases. improvement in many aspects of production is still needed. alginolyticus. . damsela subsp. thinning. and net washing are still needed to be developed as these activities are highly labor intensive especially in offshore grow-out cages. and the continuously increasing production since its introduction in the 1990s. Moreover.164 I C.g. The recent innovation of the intensive and super-intensive recirculating system for nursery rearing can only be applied in rearing cobia juveniles for up to 300 g. Liao et al. However. the established technology in mass production of larvae. causing a significant decline in total production in 2002. however. Automation in terms of feeding. good meat quality. To have a sustainable export market. 7. harvesting. V. other strategies in mass-production of cobia juveniles during the nursery stage should still be developed. this system might be too expensive for many fish farmers as high investment is necessary to set-up the facilities. and Streptococcus sp. piscicida. With the recent developments in both nursery and grow-out culture of cobia. Nonetheless. the lack of regulations in open ocean aquaculture in Taiwan has resulted in the uncontrolled proliferation of sea cage farms. This strategy prevents the occurrence of high mortality due to transportation stress of large-sized cobia. At present. Disease outbreaks remain to be the biggest threat in cobia culture in Taiwan. transportation problem will still be the issue to be resolved. high market value. this interest of fish farmers to venture into cobia production.) are undergoing. If this is successful. With the high risk associated with off-shore cage aquaculture. however. One of which is the possibility of culturing cobia in ponds under semiintensive or intensive system.
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