Two British scientists have made a scientific breakthrough which enables sea fish to breed in fresh water and could save the future of – COD AND CHIPS.
Steve Marriot, 57, and wife Frances, 41, have invented the world’s first ever system which allows species such as cod and tuna to live in fresh water.
They made their pioneering discovery while on holiday ten years ago when they stumbled upon an isolated foreign lake which was used by local tribesmen.
The lake was fresh water but was filled with saltwater fish – and the couple spent a decade trying to recreate the environment to harness its unique qualities.
The couple, both fish behaviour specialists, spent a decade developing their invention and 18 months ago the firm had just £50 in the bank.
But following a ”eureka” moment the research snowballed and the pair were recently offered £25MILLION for the business – which they turned down because it has such massive potential.
Their groundbreaking technology will see sea fish ‘farmed’ in massive freshwater tanks on dry land miles from the coast.
They have recently licensed the technique to be used at a multi-million pound Blue Fin Tuna farm in Singapore – which will rear the fish for the Far Eastern sushi market.
The technology will see sea fish farms set up in fresh water tanks in computer controlled conditions – and is seen as a massive breakthrough in international fish production and food supply.
Steve, of Holsworthy, Devon, said their invention could be used to ”restock the sea” and repopulate stricken species such as cod.
He said: ”You could even set this up in the Sahara – the implications are huge.
”Cod, like many other fish species will very soon be extinct but can now be reared in freshwater tanks under computer controlled conditions.
”This is a commercially viable system which could eventually lead to replenishing the natural stocks.
”We feel justified in saying that our approach could have a dramatic impact both commercially and on our fast dwindling stocks.”
The couple hit upon the idea while on holiday in the 1990s when they discovered a fresh water lake which was home to a breed of salt water fish.
Steve said: ”Many years ago we first discovered a salt water species living quite happily in a freshwater lake. The species itself was of little interest commercially but fascinating none the less.
”The lake itself was quite unique in many ways and completely isolated.
”The local tribesmen knew nothing of the remarkable nature of the lake and took the fish for granted.
”But as far as they were aware they had always been in abundance and had been a valuable food source for as long as anyone could remember.
”At that point in time we had neither the infrastructure nor the resources to investigate further and for many years the whole affair remained a curiosity.”
It then took the couple seven years to replicate the habitat in a tank without any genetic modification of the fish.
Their research company Diobas used a pool of over 300 international scientists to form the system, which takes three months to build and install.
Steve added: ”It was quite baffling as the salt water fish’s survival in the fresh water had been relatively recent so their survival could not be due to a genetic abnormality.
”In fact the very same fish could be caught a few hundred miles away in the sea which is where they had been introduced from originally.
”We began to wonder if other saltwater species could also survive in a freshwater environment. Logic and biological studies said ‘no’ and, to be frank, we had to agree, but somehow these fish were flourishing.”
The Marriots are now planning to relocate to Singapore after claiming they contacted every member of the House of Lords and Commons to find support – and receiving none.
Steve said: ”Eighteen months ago, we knew we’d cracked it, but our company account was down to it’s last #50 and we were desperate for support.
”It was a tough struggle and when we needed help but we have got there.
”If I hadn’t been so thick skinned, we would never have pushed it through. It would have been much more satisfying if our home industry had taken the lead.”
An expert on fish behaviour, Steve has written in clauses to the licenses of his technology to prevent ‘battery farming’ conditions.
Experts say that to create a saltwater fish farm on an industrial scale is extremely difficult and costly.
Salt is a commodity which makes it expensive and trying to control a sea water environment is technically very difficult.
Sea water is also heavily contaminated and salt water fish farms have to be very near the coast so the water can be pumped in and out.
There have been saltwater fish farm projects around the world – including off the coast of Scotland – which have only enjoyed limited success.