USA - First Baja Farmed Yellowtail Introduced to U.S. Market

Catalina Offshore Products and Baja Seas partner as a regional source for a new Baja hiramasa
March 19, 2014

Catalina Offshore Products, one of Southern California’s premier seafood purveyors and San Diego’s only exporter of sea urchin, has partnered with Baja Seas to bring a new yellowtail to the U.S. market. Baja Seas officially introduced its Baja farmed yellowtail – also known as Baja hiramasa – at the Seafood Expo North America, March 16-18 in Boston, along with Catalina Offshore Products. Catalina Offshore Products has been test marketing the fish and it has already appeared on menus from San Diego to Chicago with rave reviews.

Thebuttery texture and bright, mild flavor of the Baja farmed yellowtail (Seriola lalandi) is similar to Hawaiian kampachi (Seriola rivoliana), and provides a slightly less fatty alternative to Japanese hamachi (Seriola quniqueradita).

The original stock was bred for Baja Seas from fingerlings produced at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute – renowned for developing methods of raising high-value marine fin fish species and sustainable ocean practices. The fingerlings were transferred to Baja Seas’ state-of-the-art grow out facility on Bahia Magdalena, a pristine bay in southern Baja California. Future seed will be sourced from Baja Seas’ own hatchery, Ocean Baja Labs.

Baja Seas’ entire production is underscored by responsible technology. It uses Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) to create a small water footprint by diminishing pollution and disease; fish are fed sustainable protein- and omega-rich meal derived from sardines in a low Fish In-Fish Out (FIFO) ratio; the fish are raised without antibiotics or paraciticides; and semi-automated feeders and feed cameras prevent overfeeding.

“With consumers demanding more seafood and pressures on wild harvests increasing, we believe aquaculture is the one true sustainable model, said Baja Seas Director General Luis C. Astiazarán. “Because of their growth rate when compared to other species, marine finfish are the future of aquaculture.”

A number of factors guided Baja Seas’ decision to harvest yellowtail: the technology for it already exists; the fish is popular with consumers yet currently remains a niche market; and it’s already a natural species for the region.

Yukito Ota, master sushi chef and owner of San Diego landmark, Sushi Ota, is pleased to be among the first chefs in Southern California to feature the new local yellowtail. \"Many of our customers enjoy the Baja hiramasa as much as traditional hamachi,\" he said.

Catalina Offshore Products CEO Dave Rudie emphasized, “The debut of this Baja hiramasa is very exciting for us as it marks a major milestone for Mexico and for the U.S. It is not only a great, local alternative to Japanese or Hawaiian yellowtail, its presence in the domestic market will increase people’s access to a highly valued food source while decreasing pressure on our wild populations.”