Chile dishes up corvina in new fish farming initiative

The aquaculture industry hopes the same technology that launched Chile’s salmon industry will also fuel a boom in exports of corvina, or sea bass.

The city of Concón, just north of Valparaíso on the Chilean coast, is known for its epic feast of corvina, or sea bass, each summer. This special gastronomic event brings more than 20 restaurants together to prepare delicious corvina dishes for more than 2,000 visitors.

At the same time, about 185 miles (300 km) north of Concón, the Chilean city of Tongoy is preparing to take corvina production to the next level.

By utilizing technology similar to that used in salmon farming, corvina producers are hoping to expand production of the tasty fish from the current 700 tons caught along the Chilean coast each year, to about 5,000 tons within the next decade, according to America Economia.

Corvina is found naturally from along the coasts of Peru (where it plays a star role in the country’s cuisine), down to Puerto Montt in the south of Chile. But according to Marcela Ureta, director of Fundación Chile’s corvina farming initiative, “landing levels in recent years have been in decline.”

As a result of the corvina’s growing popularity and dwindling wild population, Chile is taking on corvina farming as a new aquaculture endeavor. Fundación Chile, a leader of the initiative, hopes the same technology that helped launch Chile’s successful salmon industry will also fuel a boom in corvina exports. Chile is currently the world’s second largest producer of salmon.

The ambitious new corvina business initiative is being funded by CORFO, Chile’s public-sector economic growth agency. The project’s many subsections, which include genetic and environmental research, nutrition and health monitoring, and the maintenance of the covina’s growth cages at sea, will have a total cost of around US$ 10.5 million.

Universities across Chile, including Tarapacá, Arturo Prat, Católica del Norte, and Austral, will be executing the program’s different subsections.

«The idea of ​​the program is to test different technologies to see which one is most suitable for the large-scale production of this species,» Ureta said.

A tasty new export

The new corvina production initiative will focus mainly on exporting the fish around the world. Taste tests in markets beyond Chile and Peru have already proved promising.

As part of a market survey, fresh corvina samples were shipped to Paris, Madrid, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. According to Infopesca, the research company that executed the survey, customers that tried corvina found it to be a high quality fish.

«The result was quite positive about the quality of the product,” Infopesca wrote in a statement. “In surveys about similarities, corvina was positioned next to species that have a higher price.»

Corvina is expected to fetch between US$ 5 (CLP 2,500) and US$ 13 (CLP 6,000) for each kilogram (2.2 pounds) on the global market. This price illustrates corvina’s high value, as salmon from Chile, in comparison, has a market value of ​​around US$ 4.50 (CLP 2,000) per kilogram.