Two British scientists have discovered a way of enabling sea fish to breed in fresh water.
The breakthrough has major implications for the world’s dwindling fish populations, such as cod, a favourite in fish and chip shops, which has been harmed by overfishing.
Steve Marriot, 57, and wife Frances, 41, made their pioneering discovery while on holiday ten years ago when they stumbled upon an isolated 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, eventually came up with their system, which is a freshwater tank under controlled conditions.
A pool of 300 scientists have contributed to the development of the system, which takes three months to build and install.
Eighteen months ago the couple’s research company Diobas had just £50 in the bank.
They were recently offered £25million for the business – which they turned down because their breakthrough has huge potential. The technique has already been licensed for use 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 environments.
It is seen as a massive breakthrough in international fish production and food supply.
Mr Marriot, of Holsworthy, Devon, said their invention could be used to ‘restock the sea’ and repopulate stricken species such as cod and tuna.
He added: ‘You could even set this up in the Sahara – the implications are huge.’
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 received none.
An expert on fish behaviour, Mr Marriot 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.
Previous saltwater fish farm projects around the world – including off the coast of Scotland – have only enjoyed limited success.