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EU answers the world’s call for more dietary fish

EU-funded researchers conducted extensive experimental analysis to identify optimal aquaculture conditions for rearing turbot. Following the consortium’s guidelines should enhance production and decrease costs to help Europe meet the growing worldwide demand.
EU answers the world’s call for more dietary fish
A quick Internet search for ‘turbot’ produces pages of recipes for this broad-bodied European flatfish that lives in sand and gravel shores often in relatively brackish waters.

Although adults can grow to one metre in length and weigh in at 25 kilograms, the luxury fish market has grown around the firm, intensely flavoured flesh of smaller turbot that have not yet reached maturity.

The sustainable aquaculture of turbot to meet growing demand will require a year-round supply of juveniles raised in on-shore tanks at high population densities. Sensitivity to environmental conditions after birth and to stocking density must be overcome or controlled.

In order to exploit turbot’s potential and enhance competitiveness of the European aquaculture sector, European researchers initiated the ‘Biological optimisation and development of processing methods for turbot farming’ (Turpro) project.

Its goals were twofold. First, Turpro sought to outline a sustainable production strategy that significantly enhances growth while reducing maturation in order to reduce production cost per kilogram of market-ready fish. Secondly, scientists focused on novel processing techniques that could enhance both yield and flesh quality.

The consortium relied heavily on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that played a key role in research and technological development (RTD).

The new rearing programmes developed included a temperature-step principle rather than a constant-temperature condition. In addition, inhibition of premature or precocious maturation was achieved under conditions of extended periods of light (photoperiods), leading to larger size fish. Together, the raring schedule outlined by partners has the potential to increase production by 20–30 %.

Positive outcomes of the programmes that could decrease costs include reduced water consumption, decreased growing period and less feed required.

Through its extensive experimental analysis of various factors affecting turbot farming, Turpro provided a standardised programme that should lead to higher production rates of high-quality fish at lower costs. Widespread implementation has the potential to enhance Europe’s ability to meet the growing worldwide demand for turbot indigenous in European waters.

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