Concept and Objectives

Tunas constitute the most valuable fishery worldwide, with global catches in 2002 of 9 million mt and a value of US$ 6 billion (Directorate General for Fisheries, 2004; FAO, 2004).  Except for the skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), most tuna stocks are considered fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted (FAO, 2002).  In the Mediterranean Sea, the species of greatest value is the Atlantic bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus (BFT) (Fromentin & Powers, 2005; Chow et al., 2006), a very close relative of the Pacific BFT (T. orientalis) and the Southern BFT (T. maccoyii) (Collette et al., 2001; Nelson, 2006).  Over the last decade, a “capture-based" aquaculture industry (Ottolenghi et al., 2004) has developed in the Mediterranean Sea, which involves the capture of migrating wild fish and their fattening in floating cages for periods ranging from 2 months to 2 years (Miyake et al., 2003; Directorate General for Fisheries, 2004; Ottolenghi et al., 2004; FAO, 2005).  Fuelled by the increasing demand for this unique fish by the sashimi-sushi market in Japan, Europe and the United States (Catarci, 2004), the expansion of the fattening industry is considered threatening to the wild stock, which is now considered to be overfished (Fromentin & Powers, 2005).  The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) the international organization responsible for the conservation of tunas in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas, is implementing a 4-year gradual reduction in the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean BFT (ICCAT, 2007), in an effort to address the increasing scientific (Fromentin & Powers, 2005), public (Bregazzi, 2006) and NGO concern (Atrt, 2006) over the status of the wild stocks and the thread of extinction of the species due to overfishing. 

One way to alleviate the pressure on the wild fishery of the BFT and aid in its conservation would be the domestication of the BFT and the development of a self-sustained industry, which will propagate this species in captive conditions, rear the larvae and produce fingerlings for further grow-out on suitable, scientifically formulated and environmentally performing feed, as it is done successfully in the EU for species such as the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata).  Therefore, there is a great interest in developing captive Atlantic BFT broodstocks and larval rearing methods to support the sustainable development of BFT aquaculture. Studying the reproductive biology and larval rearing of this species in captivity would also result in a better understanding of its life history, which is necessary for management of the wild stocks.

SELFDOTT will implement the knowledge already obtained on the artificial control of reproduction of the Atlantic BFT to obtain viable eggs (Mylonas et al., 2008), which will be used to study embryonic and larval development to produce fingerling for further rearing, while at the same time develop a commercial, pelleted feed for the growout of BFT, thus reducing or eliminating the practice of raw fish importation and feeding by the fattening industry.  The S&T objectives of SELFDOTT are directly related to the topics address by the Call FP7-KBBE-2007-1, namely the substantiation of the current knowledge on the reproduction of captive BFT, the establishment of the knowledge-base for its larval rearing and the development of suitable feeds.  Based on the success in controlling reproduction in captive BFT achieved in a previous EU-funded project (REPRODOTT, Q5RS-2002-01355) and the extensive experience of the partners of SELFDOTT in reproductive endocrinology, larval rearing and physiology, and nutrition of marine aquaculture fishes, the objectives set forth by the proposal are realistic and achievable within the time frame of the program, and can be measured and verified through not only the production of scientific publications, but the production of fertilized eggs, viable larvae and fingerlings of BFT for further rearing.  Finally, the recent or long-term involvement of SELFDOTT partners in BFT farming, reproductive biology, nutrition and domestication through commercial operations and National research projects, is a further asset to the ability of the consortium to achieve the objectives proposed and fulfil the specific call.  SELFDOTT is organized into three main work packages (WP) for Reproduction, Larval rearing, and Nutrition and feeding.