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Monday, April 21, 2014 | Last updated: 12:51am

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Seaweed can be used for more than just sushi



Fish created with modern technology sound like the premise of a new Stephen King horror movie, but the UA has laboratories that grow fish for future food production.

The debate over whether to consume farmed fish or wild-caught stock has been raging since farmed fish first hit grocery stores. Kevin Fitzsimmons, a UA professor of soil, water and environmental science, has developed farmed fish techniques, specifically pertaining to the power of seaweed.

“Seaweed farms are a great nursery for other marine life,” Fitzsimmons said. Fish and shrimp can use the seaweed as a home to grow and mature in.

These types of farms are also great for the environment because seaweed absorbs a lot of carbon dioxide from sea water, said Fitzsimmons.

Another perk of seaweed and fish farming is that it is done in the ocean and doesn’t take up terrestrial real-estate.

Fitzsimmons said he is hoping for a change in the way Americans and other people of the world think about seaweed and marine food, which he believes are the future of food harvesting.

“In the U.S., the most algae seaweed we eat is wrapped in our sushi,” Fitzsimmons said.

He said he is excited about the popularity of products like dried seaweed that are turning up in grocery stores. “People can eat those like potato chips, and they are a lot more healthy,” Fitzsimmons said.

Aquaculture, fish and plant farming, is not limited to food production. Mike Freeze, co-owner of Keo Fish Farm, Inc. in Keo, Ark., runs a fish hatchery that distributes triploid grass carp and other fish to buyers in Arizona.

The triploid grass carp are used to eat water vegetation in commercial fishing venues and municipal waterways blocked by vegetation. These specific carp are sterile.

“‘Triploid’ means they have three sets of chromosomes. Most people have just two,” Freeze said.

In order to make the fish sterile, Freeze and his team interrupt normal cell division from one female and one male. This phenomenon also occurs in humans. “Down syndrome in humans is due to triploid,” Freeze said.

The triploid grass carp die after one generation so they do not out compete the native fish species.

Gloria Rodriguez, co-owner and manager of Seafoods INC., imports groupers from Mexico to many restaurants in town, including Kingfisher Bar and Grill, Wild Garlic Grill and Casino Del Sol. She said that there are no options for farmed groupers in the U.S.

“We import about two tons of fish every month to Tucson,” said Rodriguez. She said she feels that wild-caught fish are healthier because they have a natural diet.

Fitzsimmons said he thinks that farmed fish are a healthier way to get fish into a person’s diet.

“In most cases, farm-raised fish is better nutritionally and less likely to have contaminants in it,” Fitzsimmons said.

He added that 10 years ago farmed fish might have been unhealthy, but techniques for fishing have changed and made farmed fish safer.

“We are in the midst of a huge change from hunter-gatherer to domestically providing our fish and it’s happening fast,” said Fitzsimmons. He said he feels the economy will drive fisherman out of business as fish farming is becoming very cost-effective.

“I feel bad for the people that are losing their jobs, but I also felt bad for my grandfather, who was a milkman,” Fitzsimmons said.


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