Researchers design the cheapest and most efficient squid aquaculture system to date

There are three species of oval cuttlefish found around Okinawa. Researchers say their populations have declined since the 1980s and are likely to be only 10% of their original size. Aquaculture can be a sustainable way to use the squid as a food source. Credit: Dr. Ryuta Nakajima

A squid is a type of cephalopod with an elongated body, eight arms and two tentacles. Globally, there are at least 300 species of squid scattered throughout the world’s oceans. They are also a healthy source of food as they are packed with protein, contributing to high quality meals. But all squid species in Japanese waters have been declining since the 1980s, and their estimated population size is only 10% of what they were before. The situation is so dire that Japan, which has one of the highest rates of fish and seafood consumption in the world, now relies on imported, processed squid from South America.

But with the help of aquaculture, the breeding of fish and other aquatic animals, this difficult situation may come to an end. Researchers from the Physics and Biology Unit, led by Prof. Jonathan Miller, of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) have developed the first squid aquaculture system that has the potential to be commercialized. It has never before been possible to breed squid in a way that is compatible with aquaculture, due to various characteristics of the animal, such as their aggressive behavior, sensitivity to water flow, food preferences and complex life cycle.

“In general, people think that aquaculture is easy, but it’s actually quite challenging,” says Dr. Zdenek Lajbner, who is responsible for squid breeding within the OIST unit. “Take Japanese eel and tuna, for example. Marine scientists have been trying to develop aquaculture for these two animals for decades. Despite this, both markets still rely mainly on wild catch.”

Likewise, for the past 60 years, scientists have tried to establish squid aquaculture with little success. Not only has this invention closed the squid life cycle (a major challenge in itself), but it has also been done in a way that is efficient and inexpensive enough to be commercialized. dr. Lajbner emphasized that the system specifically focuses on providing good conditions for spawning and hatching.

“We applied knowledge from different areas of aquaculture and made many adjustments,” says Dr. Ryuta Nakajima, visiting researcher at OIST. “Compared to my experience in two other labs, the outcome and survival rate of the animals here is much higher.”

This aquaculture system targets a group of species called oval squid. Okinawa has three species of oval squid, and the ocean around mainland Japan has one or two.

“This is a groundbreaking step towards developing sustainable squid farming across generations,” said Prof. Miller.

The researchers are now working closely with OIST’s Office of Technology Development and Innovation (TDIC) to meet companies interested in commercializing the invention. As part of this, they have filled out a provisional patent.

“We are excited to be promoting this technology externally to companies for potential licensing opportunities,” said Mr. Graham Garner, TDIC’s Technology Licensing Specialist.

Squid recorded a color match on a substrate for the first time

Provided by Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology

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