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Costa Rica snapper farmer planning to build on Costco business in US market

Martec is aiming to raise spotted rose snapper production to 8,000 metric tons over five years and expand deeper into the American market.

Costa Rica-based spotted rose snapper producer Martec is aiming to boost exports to the United States by more than 1,000 percent over the next five years.

Martec plans to achieve this with a nearly six-fold increase in production and the financial muscle of a team of unnamed new backers.

The company, based in the Pacific coastal port of Quepos, annually produces close to 700 metric tons of spotted rose snapper eight miles offshore.

At least than 90 percent of this is exported to the US market, where the main customer is retail chain Costco, Max Tattenbach, Martec's sustainability and innovation manager, told IntraFish.

Most of the company's fish is air freighted fresh to the US market and sold whole at around 500 grams, targeting Hispanic populations on the east, southeast and west coasts. As production grows, Martec expects to be able to offer various sizes of fish, as well as fillets as part of plans to move beyond its current market demographic.

Sturdy fish

Founded in 1982, Martec began as a wild-catch fish business before moving into aquaculture experimentally eight years ago. Its wild-fish division harvests 2,300 metric tons of tuna, swordish and mahi-mahi a year.

The company claims to be the world's only farmed producer of farmed spotted rose snapper.

Martec's move into aquaculture has just been rewarded by the achievement of a 3-star Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification, something that it expects may open doors to new markets.

"We are able to let our buyers know that we are producing our aquaculture under best practices, which is becoming increasingly important for all the buyers and sellers," Tattenbach said.

Production takes place over a 150-hectare farm site with plenty of room to grow, although the company has already applied for a new license to avoid putting all its eggs in one basket.

Earlier this year Mexico's Earth Ocean Farms, backed by offshore aquaculture investment fund Cuna del Mar, revealed plans to market its Pacific red snapper for the first time in Mexico and the United States.

At IntraFish's recent Investor Forum in New York Cuna del Mar Director Robert Orr said warmwater species are key to feeding a growing global population as he outlined the fund's plans to continue spending heavily on aquaculture projects with a particular eye to emerging economies.

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