FinFish Hatchery: Objectives | Facility | Aquaculture | Classroom | Outreach | Projects | Links

A bottleneck in the development of aquaculture seems to be the availability of a constant and reliable supply of fingerlings to commercial aquaculture companies for growing out to market size. MIT Sea Grant recognized this shortfall and developed Boston's first marine finfish hatchery. Operations began in 1998 on Pier 3, which is located in the heart of the historic Navy Yard in Charlestown. By using the National Park Service’s space, MIT Sea Grant not only demonstrated urban aquaculture but also showed an efficient utilization of property formerly devoted to maritime activity. In 2003, MIT Sea Grant’s hatchery moved to the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center.

MIT Sea Grant Hatchery at the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center

The Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center is a grassroots nonprofit organization that occupies 39,069 square feet overlooking Gloucester Harbor. This site includes the Gloucester Marine Railway, a 19th century mill building that housed the equipment to power the railway and a former icehouse, which has been transformed into a workshop for building wooden boats. The Center’s three wharves are the home of several fishing vessels representing different periods in the evolution of fishing technology. Through the ongoing development of exhibits and the outdoor aquarium, Sea Pocket, the Center provides insight into the relationship between the health of the city’s maritime industrial history and the health of New England fisheries.

The two core components of Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center’s mission are to “to champion the preservation of Gloucester’s maritime industrial history and tradition” and “to serve as a resource for the study of maritime history, industry and ecology. See for more information.


Our hatchery moved to Gloucester in the summer of 2003 from the Charlestown Navy Yard. The new facility has an interpretive area that provides information about aquaculture and our facility. Visitors can view research and activities of the hatchery via windows that overlook our recirculating systems.
The hatchery collaborates with the Heritage Center to offer educational programs that include aquaculture activities.

The hatchery consists of two independent culture systems, six 100-gallon hatching/larval-rearing tanks and two 500-gallon grow-out tanks, and a live feed culture room. Each system demonstrates state-of-the-art recirculating technology. Harbor water is pumped in at high tide, if needed, and filtered and aerated to keep excellent water quality. Initially the eggs are hatched in the hatching tanks and then the larvae are fed a live feed diet consisting of zooplankton such as rotifers and Artemia. Eventually the fish are weaned onto a dry pellet feed that promotes growth.

The live feed culture room consists of 5 tanks and an Artemia hatching cone. The tanks are used to culture rotifers and Aretmia that are fed to the larvae. The Artemia hatching cone is used to hatch Artemia to feed the older larvae.

The hatching tanks house the fish from hatching until they grow large enough to be weaned to a dry feed diet. The point at which the fish are moved into the grow out systems is dependent on the fish’s point in the life cycle, which is in turn dependent on the size of the fish. The hatching tanks are dark so that the amount of light that gets into the tanks while the fish are hatching can be controlled. State-of-the-art recirculating technology is used to filter the water in the hatching tanks.

Once the larvae metamorphose into juveniles, they are weaned onto a dry pellet diet that is commercially available and are moved from the larval tanks to the grow-out system. The grow-out tanks are larger and allow more space for the fish to grow. The water in the grow-out tanks is filtered using state-of-the-art recirculating technology.

Determining when the fish can handle these changes is key to rearing a species not previously reared in captivity. The data collected from the hatchery (growth rates, weight, feed conversions, and environmental conditions) will determine whether or not a particular species has commercial potential. The hatchery is involved in several research projects related to the aquaculture industry.

Related links:
Aquaculture — Table top recirculating system