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Fish escapes from marine farms raise concerns about wildlife

Scientists worry that the runaways could harm native species

By
4:12pm, September 7, 2016
sea bass

SMOOTH CRIMINAL  Farmed sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and other fish frequently escape from sea cages out into the ocean. Researchers worry that escapees, like this sea bass found off the coast of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, could threaten wild ecosystems. 

On the dock in Buenaventura, Colombia, the fisherman needed help identifying his catch. “I don’t have any clue what this is,” he said, holding a roughly 50-centimeter-long, grayish-brown fish. Gustavo Castellanos-Galindo, a fish ecologist, recalls the conversation from last October. “I said, ‘Well, this is a cobia, and it shouldn’t be here.’ ”

The juvenile cobia had probably escaped from a farm off the coast of Ecuador that began operating earlier in 2015, Castellanos-Galindo and colleagues at the World Wildlife Fund in Cali, Colombia, reported in March in BioInvasions Records. Intruders had probably cut a net cage, perhaps intending to catch and sell the fish. Roughly 1,500 cobia fled, according to the aquaculture company Ocean Farm in Manta, Ecuador, which runs the farm. Cobia are fast-swimming predators that can migrate long distances and grow to

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