University breeds sustainable fish species
Increasing demand for fish is met with dwindling fish supplies as a result of overfishing in the seas. With European and provincial funding the university of Leuven went in search of a solution to this problem. It now seems they may have found it in omega perch, a fish that is not only rich in omega-3 fatty acids but also boasts other qualities, like rapid growth, relatively low water and food requirements, and an ability to be bred by means of aquaculture without fishmeal or fish oil. In their search for a suitable breeding fish species The KU Leuven researchers did not in fact “invent” the fish, but found the jade perch in Australians rivers. “There fish are bred differently. We came up with a better version of the perch without interfering with the genes,” says KULeuven researcher Stijn Van Hoestenberghe. One and a half years ago they flew these fish halfway around the globe to their laboratory in Louvain. Today a thousand fish can be seen swimming around at the university. They do not intend to put these fish in Belgian rivers as they will not be able to survive here. As a matter of fact the choice of this fish was also determined by its incapacity to endanger the diversity of Belgian fish. Researchers hope to introduce this super fish to the local market within the next years. “We cannot commercialize the fish as yet. We first need to obtain permission from the Flemish authorities before breeders can go ahead. This will be preceded by more research and a way of establishing whether it appeals to people's taste. Otherwise it would all have been in vain.” The taste test will be the acid test. As a marketing test, the omega perch featured on a restaurant menu and was received with enthusiasm by the costumers. Even the well-known chef Jeroen Meus is convinced, saying: “As chefs we must be open to aquaculture and sustainable fishing to ensure our children and grandchildren will still be able to enjoy fish on the menu”.