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 protected] if you have any questions about this data.
Average number of parasites per fish by week:
|1||6.2||27||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions|
|8||2.6||34||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions|
|10||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||36||3.8|
|13||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||39||24.9|
|16||3.41||42||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions|
|19||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||45||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions|
|21||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||47||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions|
|24||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||50|
|26||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||52|
|4||1.79||30||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions|
|5||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||31||2.6|
|6||2.49||32||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions|
|7||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||33||3.08|
|11||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||37||3.39|
|13||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions||39||4.39|
|17||6.28||43||No monitoring due to bad offshore weather conditions|
|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 committed to maintaining the health of the environment in which we operate. This commitment includes our ongoing work to monitor the health of wild fish populations in the farm area. We are engaged in a multi-phase research project designed to create the knowledge base needed to understand and manage any potential effects of farm activities on wild fish populations.
As part of this effort, Open Blue has done an extensive literature review to identify fish who are either resident or transitory in the Southern Caribbean region, as well as a separate literature review intended to identify the common diseases and parasites of these wild fish. These literature reviews are continuously updated and inform our current monitoring work, which is focused on sampling wild fish found under/around the Open Blue pens, as well as fish at more distant points on Atlantic Coast of Panama. Wild fish are collected and then subjected to the same pathology exam as fish that come from our pens. The results of these pathology exams (especially the results of screens for several notable fish pathogens) are compared with the results of our farmed fish analyses, giving us valuable insights into both our farm stock and the animals living around our pens.
Our wild fish sampling work has been ongoing since July of 2017. Since that time we have sampled more than 50 fish captured underneath or in the vicinity of our pens. Additionally, we conduct regular video surveys of the populations of wild fish under our cages, and we have been conducting these surveys since August 2017. We continue to monitor these populations and maintain an extensive database on our results.
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.
This report describes the escape of fish from the Open Blue open-ocean aquaculture site located approximately 8 miles offshore of the town of Miramar, Panama, in the Caribbean Sea. This report covers all verified escapes since November 2016.
All of the lost fish described in this report are cobia (Rachycentron canadum). Cobia are native to the Caribbean coast of Panama. These fish were not genetically modified in any way and had no unusual health problems or diseases. All of the fish lost in these escapes were sexually immature juveniles. None of the fish discussed in this report were recovered.
Escape 1: November 22, 2016.
Summary: On or about November 22, 2016, Open Blue lost an estimated 1,767 fish due to heavy weather associated with Hurricane Otto.
Root Cause Narrative: This escape resulted from extremely high winds and currents generated by the passing of Hurricane Otto. One cage parted two of four mooring lines during the storm. After these lines parted, the cage flipped upside down and drifted out of position, where it collided with a neighboring cage and became entangled. At the point where the two cages made contact, friction created holes in the nets of both cages and fish were able to escape. Because the holes created by this incident were relatively small, only a relatively small number of fish escaped. High currents on the site prevented repair of the cages on Wednesday November 23 and Thursday November 24. By Friday November 25 operations were back to normal, the cages were repaired, and no further loss of fish occurred.
Corrective Actions: All lines that parted were analyzed for defects. Current data from the OB depth profilers were analyzed to understand the magnitude of the currents that caused this break. Improvements to monthly grid and mooring line inspection were implemented. Semi-annual entire-grid inspections were implemented, including sending lines to laboratories for strength tests.
Escape 2: December 19, 2017.
Summary: On or about December 19, 2017 Open Blue lost an estimated 11,295 fish due the failure of a net.
Root Cause Narrative: This escape was the result of a net failure that occurred in Open Blue’s oldest cage. The net failure was likely due to improperly maintained cage components. Essentially, the net was allowed to become fouled and to become too slack around parts of the cage. This resulted in the net folding in on itself, and this folding, in turn, wore away at the net and eventually caused a break. The loss of fish was confirmed by feed operators who noted a large drop in feeding rates.
Corrective Actions. The two supervisors who allowed this net failure to occur were fired. A new net was ordered and installed to replace the failed net on the cage. Additionally, the frequency of reporting on cage maintenance was increased from monthly to weekly in order to allow managers more notice of potential problem areas with the cages.
Escape 3: May 31, 2018.
Summary: On or about May 31st, 2018, Open Blue lost an estimated 2,492 fish due to a small hole in a net created by a feed pipe.
Root Cause Narrative. The grommet (or hole) in the net through which the feed pipe was inserted was too tight. Because the grommet was too tight, the pipe became bound in the net and could not move freely with the waves. The wave energy was therefore transferred to the net and eventually a small hole was created. This hole allowed for the escape of an estimated 2,492 fish.
Corrective Actions. Farm management ensured that all grommets designed for feed pipes were wide enough that pipes would not bind. This specifically meant rebuilding the grommets so they were approximately ½” wider in diameter.
Escape 4: Marzo 25, 2019
Summary: On or about March 2019 Open Blue lost an estimated of 500 fish due to a hole in the net of the pen.
Root Cause Narrative: This escape was caused by a hole in the net of this pen .
Corrective Actions: It was decided to harvest before to empty the cage. Currently this pen was removed from the farm to change the entire net.
Since 2014, Open Blue has achieved the following recognized certifications