Farming Tautog as a High Value Fish while Reducing Invasive Crab Populations

Project Overview

Project Type: Research Only
Funds awarded in 2019: $149,179.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Ward Aquafarms, LLC
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Dr. Daniel Ward
Ward Aquafarms, LLC

Information Products

Coute NESARE tautog poster (Conference/Presentation Material)


  • Animals: fish
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, aquaculture
  • Crop Production: nutrient management
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, business planning, farm-to-restaurant
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    1. Problem, Novel Approach and Justification.
      Tautog (Tautoga onitis) is a coastal wrasse which is a highly sought-after species by commercial and recreational anglers. Due to the high demand and stressed wild populations, tautog is an ideal candidate species for marine aquaculture. Additionally, tautog are voracious feeders of the invasive green crab (Carcinus maenas), which have caused widespread ecological damage along the east coast. Research at UMASS has documented high survival and growth rates when tautog are solely fed a diet of green crabs. The proposed project would refine growout techniques for this high value food fish, while creating a market for an invasive species endemic throughout the Northeast region.
    2. Hypothesis and Research Plan.
      Year 1: Hypothesis: Tautog fed a natural diet will exhibit higher growth rates compared to a commercial fish feed. Juvenile tautog housed within a recirculating system will be fed one of three treatment diets: 1) Natural: green crabs only; 2) BioOregon: commercially available marine finfish diet; 3) Natural + BioOregon: green crabs supplemented with commercial feed.
      Year 2: Hypothesis : Tautog can be grown to market size in 18-24 months on commercial shellfish farms, in either tanks or netpens. Given the best performance in year one, the optimal feeding strategy will be employed in two different growout methods on a commercial shellfish farm (Ward Aquafarms, North Falmouth, MA) in year two: 1) Recirculating system in tanks; 2) Netpens in the ocean. The economic, biological and environmental impact of both approaches will be evaluated for year two growout.
    1. Outreach Plan.
      The major deliverable from this project will be a comprehensive evaluation of biological, economic and environmental impacts of small-scale tautog farming. The project team members are active members within the regional aquaculture community, and formal presentations will be given at regional meetings. A fact sheet will be produced at the completion of this project which will be distributed to all regional extension offices and regional aquaculture centers, and a peer-reviewed publication is anticipated from the feeding study.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goal of the proposed project is to develop the strategy, diet and growout techniques necessary to farm tautog, which is a high-value fish in the Northeast, using a natural fish feed utilizing green crabs, which are a discarded invasive marine species. Diversifying product offerings is a critical development goal of marine aquaculture farmers, and industry adoption will be facilitated by demonstrating an economically and environmentally sustainable method of farming tautog to interested stakeholders.


    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.