At Biota we have developed technology that allows us to collect gametes freshly spawned in the wild and keep them at a very high survival rate for hatching in captivity. This method, though variable in results, has shown very promising and it has allowed us to work with ornamental species normally impossible to culture in captivity. The benefits from this method are several and include:
- the growth of new and significant species to reef health,
- almost zero impact on the wild populations,
- no need for wild fish in captivity as broodstock
- less expense and
- higher quality of egg as a means for better fry.
A remarkable example –although our efforts here are directed towards conservation, not commercial production- is the endangered Bumphead Parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum). The family of Parrotfish (Scarrids) comprises of a large number of greatly varied fish. They range massively in size, diet and abundance and have often been described as one of the most important families of fishes in relation to reef health. The Bumphead Parrotfish is the world’s largest Parrotfish and has been shown to produce five metric tons of coral sand per year per fish as a waste product of its feeding habits. However this natural bioengineer, which is listed as Vulnerable at the IUCN, is literally being fished to extinction around the Pacific.
Fortunately, they have been protected in Palau and this means we have been able to get a supply of gametes (eggs) in order to trial farming them for restocking purposes. The success in this project has been a world’s first, and as such it represents big news in the biology field, as no species of the whole family had been ever cultured before.
In continuity with this work, spawning aggregations of other species are also part of our investigation. Currently we dive on more than four sites per month doing visual surveys to assess gathering fish ready to spawn.