Baltimore Scientists Turn Carnivorous Fish into Happy Vegetarians

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Cobia, aka black salmon, is a fish that likes to eat other fish — and crabs, squid, and pretty much whatever else it can get its jaws on. Or that’s how things used to be. After four years of experiments by Baltimore scientists, the cobia has now converted to vegetarianism.

You may be wondering (as I did) why scientists care whether fish eat other fish or “mixtures of plant-based proteins, fatty acids, and a powerful amino acid-like substance found in energy drinks.” They’re just fish, right? But commercial fishermen have been swooping up huge stocks of small fish to feed farmed cobia, leaving fewer anchovies, sardines, and menhaden available for wild fish and birds to eat. In case you haven’t heard, our oceans aren’t sustainable — but we all still really, really like eating fish. So this kind of marine version of Tofurkey developed by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is actually a really big deal.

While the soybean/protein/wheat/taurine pellets the researchers created cost around 15 to 20 percent more than feeds currently on the market, the cobia who ate them grew bigger and had fewer contaminants (mercury, PCBs) than their carnivorous counterparts.

Next step:  vegetarian grizzly bears?



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