The following was authored by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and published by ISSF as per a standing commitment to support the work of regional fisheries management organizations.The Achotines Laboratory is one of the few facilities in the world that supports research on the reproductive biology and early life history of tunas. The Laboratory, located in Los Santos Province in the Republic of Panamá, is owned and operated by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). The IATTC is composed of 16 member countries, and the Commission’s scientific staff is responsible for studying the biology and stock structure of tunas in the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO).
Yellowfin tuna broodstock have been spawning at near-daily intervals at the Achotines Laboratory since 1996. This represents the only sustained spawning of any tuna species in landbased tanks anywhere in the world. The development of the yellowfin tuna broodstock was funded, in part, by the Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation (OFCF) of Japan. Yellowfin tuna eggs, larvae and early-juveniles are studied in a variety of experimental investigations at the Achotines Laboratory. This research is conducted by the Early Life History (ELH) Research Group of the IATTC. The main focus of experimental research at the Achotines Laboratory is identifying environmental and biological factors that influence pre-recruit survival of yellowfin tunas. Such information could prove to be extremely valuable for use in stock assessment of tuna populations.
In a series of recent publications, the IATTC’s ELH group has described the methods of broodstock development, reproductive biology, spawning dynamics, and early development of yellowfin tuna. Additional studies have been completed to describe the effects of key physical variables on growth and survival of yellowfin tuna larvae. The experimental program at the Achotines Laboratory has led to advances in the rearing of larval and early-juvenile tunas. The IATTC’s ELH scientists routinely rear early-juvenile yellowfin tuna up to 30 to 60 days after hatch for research purposes and have reared yellowfin tuna up to 100 days after hatch.
The ELH group conducts collaborative studies of yellowfin tuna biology with a variety of research organizations. At the Achotines Laboratory, collaborative studies are encouraged as long as their focus is on research, with a preference for tuna species. Recent collaborative projects have been conducted with Clean Seas Tuna (Australia) and Texas A&M University, and joint studies on yellowfin tuna are currently being conducted with Hubbs Sea World Research Institute (U.S.), University of Miami, and Global Royal Fish (GRF) of Panama. In addition, the Achotines Laboratory has accommodated research projects on non-tuna species, such as ongoing studies of snappers conducted by the Autoridad de los Recursos Aquáticos de Panamá.
The IATTC welcomes proposals for collaborative research between the Achotines Laboratory and other institutions. The IATTC’s ELH group is pursuing comparative research with other organizations on the reproductive biology and early life history of several species of tunas (e.g. yellowfin, bluefin, bigeye). Since 2003, researchers and students have obtained an introduction to tuna culture by attending an annual workshop conducted by the IATTC and University of Miami entitled “Physiology and Aquaculture of Pelagics with Emphasis on Reproduction and Early Developmental Stages of Yellowfin Tuna.”
Regarding the IATTC’s research-only policy for the Achotines Laboratory, recent information published in Panamanian newspapers and on Internet sites requires clarification. These Internet articles erroneously reported collaboration among the IATTC, GRF, and the Government of Panamá for the commercial development of yellowfin tuna aquaculture in Panamá. IATTC scientists have collaborated with GRF staff at the Achotines Laboratory, producing some important advances in the rearing of young tunas. These advances may lead to improvements in tuna aquaculture, and eventually to the development of commercial aquaculture, but any commercialization of the process will take place outside of any collaboration with the Achotines Laboratory or the IATTC.
For more information on the research programs conducted at the Achotines Laboratory, visit http://www.iattc.org/AchotinesLab/AchotinesDefaultENG.htm or download IATTC Special Report 16 at http://www.iattc.org/SpecialReportsENG.htm.