Aquaculture: Cobia

A fish capable of growing to 6 feet, 132 pounds, and living as long as 12 years may sound like a difficult animal to grow, but aquaculture of the cobia, Rachycentron canadum, has been very successful because of this fish’s fast growth rates and excellent quality of flesh. China is the main producer of farmed cobia, but cobia aquaculture is expanding in the west with operations in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

A female cobia which will be used for broodstock, photo: Dr. Daniel Benetti, NOAA Photo Library.

Cobia are large, predatory fish that inhabit warm marine waters around the world. They are usually countershaded, with dark brown backs and white bellies. A dark band, bordered by two lighter bands, extends from the eye to the tail fin along the side of the body, which resembles a slightly flattened cylinder.

Cobia broodstock were initially captured from wild populations. Now, 1.5 -2-year-old cobia are chosen from existing stocks for spawning. Cobia broodstock are kept in recirculating or flow-through tank systems where they spawn year-round. Fertilized eggs are collected and transferred to nursery ponds to hatch, and the larvae are fed small crustaceans called copepods or microscopic animals called rotifers. As cobia grow, they are introduced to feed pellets. Weekly, the cobia are sorted by size to reduce cannibalism and ensure survival of stocks. At around 75 days old, cobia are transferred to near-shore or offshore grow out cages where they are kept until harvest. Challenges facing cobia aquaculture include overloading the surrounding environment with nutrients, disease, and escape of stocks.

The process of culturing cobia, from: http://www.fao.org/fishery/culturedspecies/Rachycentron_canadum/en

This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.

Script Author: Danielle DeChellis

Contributing Professor: Dr. Lisa Campbell

Editor: James M. Fiorendino

Featured Image: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/cobia