Feeding fish during lockdown

The fish at our Northland Marine Research Centre were still getting their meals during lockdown.

Althougth the hatchery was temporarily closed and late-stage fish stock were reduced, feeding fish and maintaining facilities at the marine research centre at Bream Bay was classified as an 'essential service' under the COVID-19 lockdown. A skeleton NIWA staff were going on site every day to look after fish welfare and keep the aquaculture systems humming. 

Dr Javed Khan is one of twelve staff that did rotating shifts on site during lockdown, while other work was completed offsite, as with most NIWA sites.

"Our biggest concern is always animal welfare. During lockdown, the fish still needed to get fed and facilities maintained to make sure nothing went wrong with our operations.” says Javed.

The fish featured in Javed's video below are fed a specially formulated diet that takes them about 12 hours to digest. The six-month-old yellowtail kingfish thrash and splash when being fed, which is completely normal. Unlike some other fish species, kingfish don’t have a feeding hierarchy and they slide across one another quite harmlessly. 

Kingfish at the Northland Marine Research Centre are usually raised to about a year old, then sold to Auckland restaurants through Leigh Fisheries. Because restaurants were closed during lockdown, excess fish were instead distributed to people in need through local charitable organisations in Northland. As well as helping the community, the arrangement helped Bream Bay staff keep kingfish stock numbers down.

Operations at the Centre are now back to being fully operational. 

Bream Bay fish feeding
Kingfish at the Northland Aquaculture Research Centre, Bream Bay. [Photo: Pascale Otis]
Crispin Middleton
Yellowtail kingfish is a premium sashimi and sushi fish. [Photo: Crispin Middleton]