Open Blue exceeds the highest standards in the mariculture industry, and complies with all regulations and third-party certifications. Every day we look for more ocean-friendly, fish-friendly and human-friendly ways to do business. Our commitment to structured, continuous improvement keeps us at the forefront of our industry.
Parasite monitoring and control
Ocean Ecosystems and Parasitism
Tropical deep water open oceans are dynamic and full of life, especially plankton. Plankton are small organisms that float or drift in great numbers in bodies of salt and fresh water. Plankton are a primary food source for many animals, and consist of protozoans, algae, cnidarians, tiny crustaceans such as copepods, and many other organisms. Many of these planktonic organisms are marine ectoparasites.
Marine ectoparasites occur naturally on many different species of fish. When ectoparasites encounter marine fish they attach themselves to the skin, fins and/or gills of the fish and feed off the mucous, tissues, or interstitial fluid of the fish.
Deep water, open ocean aquaculture systems are less vulnerable to this type of parasite (and parasites in general) because the open nature of offshore pens interrupts the multi-stage life cycle of these organisms and prevents their accumulation within the system.
Cobia are a relatively hardy species. Like all fish, however, cobia must deal with ectoparasites, and those ectoparasites must be pro-actively managed in order to ensure that the fish are reared in a healthy and humane fashion. In the offshore sites, tracking these ectoparasites is a regular part of our fish care. Parasitic organisms such as Neobenedenia can be found in the sea pens. Neobenedenia, known more colloquially as a “skin fluke”, is an ectoparasite that attaches itself to the skin and eyes of our cobia. Neobenedenia feeds on the skin cells and mucus of the fish. Our veterinarians monitor for Neobenedenia and other ectoparasites on a regular basis.
Our monitoring protocol requires that 5 fish per pen are selected from a percentage of our pens for analysis every week. We count the ectoparasites on the selected fish then we bathe the fish in Hydrogen Peroxide, a safe non-antibiotic method of controlling ectoparasites. Hydrogen Peroxide is an effective treatment for parasites. It breaks down quickly into water and oxygen and does not accumulate in sediment. There is no withdrawal period for the fish following the treatment. Because Hydrogen Peroxide breaks down so quickly and completely it is considered a zero impact method of treating marine fish. Hydrogen Peroxide is listed by the third party certification group, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, as the only parasiticide treatment with a 0 rating for persistence and toxicity in the environment, meaning Hydrogen Peroxide leaves zero toxic residues in the ocean after usage.
As part of our ongoing commitment to nourish current and future generations in harmony with the ocean, and because some of our stakeholders have an interest in understanding this part of our business, we are providing our ectoparasite data for public review. This data will be updated on a regular basis. Please feel free to contact us at email@example.com if you have any questions about this data.
Average number of parasites per fish by week:
|4||1.79||30||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions|
|5||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||31||2.6|
|7||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||33|
|11||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||37|
|13||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||39|
|27||3.9||48||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions|
|29||3.6||50||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions|
|30||2.4||51||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions, high waves, poor visibility.|
Life at Sea
Mariculture out in the open ocean comes with some interesting neighbors. Occasionally we see various species of snapper, remora, jacks, small tuna and other pelagic fish congregating around the sea enclosures. The most common sharks we see are whale sharks which are planktivores, meaning they eat tiny plankton in the water. We also see more aggressive sharks like tiger sharks, bull sharks and hammerhead sharks. These species can be dangerous to our divers and to our fish.
Because mortalities in our enclosures could be an attractant for these types of sharks, we have maintained strict protocols for removing dead and moribund fish, thus eliminating the motivation for sharks to try and enter the enclosures. Additionally, the containment mesh of our SeaStation pens is made of rigid netting with a tensile strength of 45kN/m that cannot be severed by sharks. This netting was installed in January 2016 in all of our pens, and as a result, shark attacks and the resulting holes are now resolved.
We are continually working to increase our understanding of shark populations on the Caribbean coast. As a part of this work we have partnered with MarAlliance, a local environmental group and the University of Panama. Some of our divers have been trained in shark identification and we are building a database to track numbers and different types of sharks in the area. Sharks are a part of life at sea, but we are proving every day that with the right approach, we can all coexist in harmony.
Wild fish research
Wild fish research project
Open Blue produces cobia (Rachycentron canadum) at an offshore farm on the Atlantic coast of Panama. Cobia are a large pelagic fish of circumtropical distribution, and are native to the Caribbean and Panama.
Open Blue is sponsoring a multi-phase research program to understand and monitor wild fish in the farm area. This is to make sure that Open Blue has the baseline data needed to manage any potential effects and understand changes in the marine environment that may affect their farm operations.
The project is in three phases. The first phase was to conduct a literature review and identify fish who are either resident or transitory in the Southern Caribbean region. The first phase is now complete. Phase 1 Literature Review: Common Teleost Fish of the Southern Caribbean, with a Focus on Panama, Costa Rica, and Colombia.
A white paper is under revision looking at common disease and parasites found on these identified species of wild fish. This paper: Common Diseases of Farmed Fish at Open Blue and the Potential Impacts on Wild Fish in the Region – A Review will be used as a basis for the second phase of sample collection.
The second phase involves sample collection of wild fish, both resident and transitory, near the farm location. This phase is expected to start in May 2017. Samples will be analyzed for health conditions, weight, length, stomach contents, disease screening, parasites and other health indicators. Sample collection will be done four times annually based on the timing of some fisheries.
Once this data set has begun, it will be compared to farm records to identify any common fish health parameters. This will provide us with better tools to understand fish health on the farm.
Net integrity and fish containment
All fish farmers work hard to prevent any fish released from their farms. This is an important effort, not only because the safe protection of the farm stock is integral to the viability of our business, but also because of any potential environmental concerns.
Today’s Open Blue SeaStation technology is constructed to such a high standard that it is rare for equipment failures to occur. The containment mesh of the SeaStations is made of rigid netting with a tensile strength of 45kN/m that cannot be severed by sharks or collapsed by marine mammals. As a result of the replacement of all of the SeaStation netting completed in January 2016, shark attacks and the resulting holes are now resolved.
Occasionally however it is possible that some small quantity of fish could escape. Our divers inspect the integrity of the netting daily and keep a record of any net issues. If an incident occurs we make an inventory adjustment following the finding of any holes and diver observations. Once the harvest is completed we reconcile the harvested fish with potential escapes and release the data to the Panamanian government as well as make it publicly available on our website.
Net hole report » June 2017
On June 7, 2017, divers reported that an equipment failure caused a hole in Pen 13 and likely resulted in fish release from the pen. The estimate of loss is 1,500 fish at 4 kilo each.
The feed hose grommet ripped out of the seawall. The failed grommet was installed with the gen 1 arterial feed system. It will be examined for future reference. To repair, the grommet was replaced with the updated design.
This pen is scheduled to be harvested September/October 2017. Once the pen is harvested this number will be verified. This has been reported to the government.
Since 2014, Open Blue has achieved the following recognized certifications