Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

mercredi 7 janvier 2004

Phil Mackey is the general manager of the Mt. Lassen Trout Farms. His 30-pound rainbow trouts are hatched from eggs 'manipulated to produce fish with three sets of chromosomes instead of two.' The Los Angeles Times reports about these freakoid fishes (free registration needed), called 'blasphemy' by some purists because of their strange proportions.

Here is one of these gargantuan rainbow trouts (Credit: Robert Gauthier/LAT).

A gargantuan rainbow trout
It's easy to tell how extraordinary such fish are after visiting their birthplace near Red Bluff, Calif., about a two-hour drive north of Sacramento. Mt. Lassen Trout Farms is a network of spring-fed hatcheries swarming with fish. Some are pushing 30 pounds. One of its trout, stocked recently at Santa Ana River Lakes in Orange County, weighed 28 pounds upon entry, nearly 2 pounds bigger than the state-record rainbow -- another Mt. Lassen product caught there last year.
"I wouldn't place him in the category of mad scientist," says Bob Hulbrook, chief aquaculture coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Game. "But he's a very sharp guy with a good background in genetics and, obviously, in rearing and raising fish."

Please note these are not genetically engineered fishes.

Achieving triploid eggs is tricky. Thermo-shocking with hot water must occur precisely between the two-cell and four-cell stage of miotic cellular division, about 10 minutes post-fertilization, which results in the fish retaining an extra set of chromosomes. The extra set renders the trout sterile, allowing them to conserve energy that otherwise would be spent on the development of sexual organs or mating. "It does occur fairly frequently in nature -- we're just making it happen more frequently by manipulating the spawning cycle," Mackey says.
The use of triploidy technology is only now becoming widespread as state fisheries agencies seek guarantees against genetic contamination of wild stocks. Because triploid trout are sterile, they can share lakes and streams with wild brown or steelhead trout. And because they continue to grow after diploid trout slow down to begin sexual development -- at about 2 years -- triploids are attractive as trophy fish.

Other private hatcheries have started to use the same techniques to get trouts weighing over 20 pounds. But they are far behind Mackey, who himself is far from the 'world record rainbow, a 42-pound, 2-ouncer caught in 1970 off Bell Island, Alaska.'

Even if this has been done to develop trophy fishes, it also means interesting business.

Doug Elliott, president of Corona Recreation Inc., which runs Santa Ana River Lakes and Corona Lake, has an exclusive agreement to buy the biggest rainbows Mackey can produce. Elliott pays more than $800,000 to stock his waters with Mackey's fish and about $300 apiece for the really big ones. The payoff: From 5,000 to 10,000 customers, at $18 a day for adults, visit each month during a six-month trout season beginning in early November.

If I count correctly, this generates $90K per day with 5,000 additional fishermen, or more than $14 million in increased sales over a six-month period.

For more information, Pete Thomas already published an article on the same subject, "Trout by the ton." You also can read an older article, "Cloned Food Products Near Reality."

Now you have all the elements necessary to answer the question asked in the title: would you eat such a 'Frankenfish'?

Source: Pete Thomas, Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2004

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