Courtesy of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.

California Sea Grant Awarded Nearly $630,000 In Yellowtail Research Funding

Improving production of this commercially ready marine fish for aquaculture will help reduce America’s reliance on imported seafood

Shrimp, salmon, tuna, shellfish — it’s no secret the vast majority of seafood Americans enjoy are imported. Indeed, a whopping 85 percent of our seafood is brought in from other countries, with nearly half coming from farm-raised sources. Reducing America’s seafood trade deficit has been both a priority and a challenge, but solutions are on the horizon.

Regulatory barriers are starting to come down for offshore farming in Southern California and the Gulf of Mexico — NOAA’s two initial Aquaculture Opportunity Areas; and land-based recirculating aquaculture systems, widely known as RAS, are already in place at several locations around the country with robust interest to add more.

What’s needed next is a steady supply of marine fish deemed commercially ready for farming. 

Armed with a new funding award of $628,000 from NOAA National Sea Grant Office, California Sea Grant Aquaculture Specialist Luke Gardner in collaboration with Senior Research Scientist Mark Drawbridge at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI) will be working to develop reliable broodstock, hatchery and larval technology for year-round production of high-quality California yellowtail (Seriola dorsalis) fingerlings to support farming operations.

“We’re looking at taking commercially ready species to the next level,” says Gardner. “Yellowtail is one of the more developed finfish species for marine aquaculture. But they have a seasonal spawning window. It’s one of the limitations of farming the species. One of our goals is to reliably induce spawning year-round to meet farm and market demands.”

Drawbridge says improving hatchery efficiency and fingerling quality will help ensure economically viable commercial production. 

“Here at HSWRI, we’ve been refining the aquaculture of yellowtail for 17 years and are excited that NOAA and USDA recognize the potential of this amazing food fish,” says Drawbridge. “We’re also excited to be partnering with California Sea Grant to cross the finish line with research and get the technology into the commercial sector to reduce our reliance on foreign imports.”

With a number of commercial yellowtail farms being proposed and undergoing permitting review in the U.S., including a proposed offshore farm in Southern California, Gardner and Drawbridge hope this research will lead to better techniques for year-round production  and increased quality among yellowtail fingerlings that can be used by farming operations across the U.S. 

NOAA provides funding to Sea Grant institutions to increase the understanding, assessment, development, management, utilization, and conservation of the nation’s ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources. NOAA provides assistance to promote a strong educational base, responsive research and training activities, broad and prompt dissemination of knowledge and techniques, and multidisciplinary approaches to environmental problems in accordance with 33 USC 1121(b)

MEDIA CONTACT: Caitlin Valentine, 


About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Headquartered at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, California Sea Grant is one of 34 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.