‘Not convinced it can’t be done’: A look inside California’s new bluefin tuna hatchery


Ichthus Unlimited, primarily a fish feed company, brings fresh farming hopes to the ‘Tuna Capital of the World’.

Like a doting father, Alejandro Buentello eagerly shows off the petite 44-day old bluefin tuna swimming and darting in a tidy row of see-through tanks. Getting the first bluefin tuna hatchery in North America up and running has been no small task, and Buentello still has a ways to go before his company, Ichthus Unlimited, reaches its goal of supplying hatchery-raised bluefin tuna for tuna ranchers south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The illuminated tanks are lined up near the wall of the 6,500-square foot San Diego facility. They’re tucked behind a large tarp used to cordon the fish off from the rest of the building in an effort to create an area of calm – an improvised tuna Zen garden. At only 9 cm, the 20 or so Atlantic bluefin tuna inside each tank are sensitive to loud noises, which can cause them to startle and careen into the walls of the Japanese-designed systems.

Mariana Michelato Kawakami, Ichthus Unlimited’s project manager, gently taps a vial of tiny-sized pellets of feed into each tank, watching as the months-old tuna snap them up.