The Council of Agriculture (COA) said its Fisheries Research Institute has developed a way to raise pharaoh cuttlefish and bigfin reef squid in captivity — both commercially important species — in a bid to replenish fisheries resources and lower market prices.
Cephalopods, including squid and octopus, account for 14 percent of total fish catches worldwide, and that proportion is growing, institute Director-General Chen June-ru (陳君如) said, adding that Pharaoh cuttlefish and bigfin reef squid are the two most popular cephalopods among consumers, so the council determined to try and domesticate these two animals as part of its “blue economy” project.
Pharaoh cuttlefish and bigfin reef squid are high-value species and can be sold at more than NT$250 and NT$500 per kilogram respectively — five to 10 times the price of milkfish, which is often cultivated in Taiwan — and they can bear lower temperatures than milkfish, making them a more profitable option for fish farmers, Chen said.
“What we developed is the world’s first complete culture system for pharaoh cuttlefish and bigfin reef squids. Having a complete system means that we can grow pharaoh cuttlefish and bigfin reef squid in artificial environments without needing to harvest them in the sea; there probably will not be much fishing in the sea in the future,” Penghu Marine Biology Research Center researcher Huang Ting-shih (黃丁士) said.
It has become increasingly difficult for fishermen to catch pharaoh cuttlefish and bigfin reef squid due to overfishing and diminished habitats, with only about 1 percent of young cuttlefish and squid surviving in the wild, compared with 40 percent among those cultivated, Huang said.
“The most difficult part is taking care of infant cuttlefish and squid. They typically have to feed on live shrimps or fish until they are 20 days old, which is why cultivation was thought impractical and unprofitable. However, we have found a way to make 10-day-old cuttlefish and squid eat dead bait,” Huang said.
Cultivated pharaoh cuttlefish and bigfin reef squid might be available in two to three years at half the price of wild-caught specimens, he said, adding that the institute would teach fish farmers how to train baby cuttlefish and squids to eat commercial, non-live feed.
The institute also plans to release artificially grown cuttlefish and squid into the ocean to replenish the diminishing fisheries resources, with 15,000 cuttlefish and 2,000 squid to be released this year, Chen said.
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