Cobia (Rachycentron canadum) is a large pelagic species that has an almost worldwide distribution in tropical, subtropical and temperate waters. In North America, they occur along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Florida, and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. However, this species is absent along the Pacific coast. In the United States, cobia is a focus of recreational anglers and is also the focus of special fishing tournaments. This species is also landed commercially incidental to other fisheries and in 2003 combined landings from the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico was approximately 106.4 mt with a value of about US $495,176. Its meat is prized in the marketplace. Cobia are seasonal migrants to SC waters arriving around later April and disappearing in fall. During the warmer months the cobia is a focus of SC fishermen especially during their peak spawning season of May/June. At this time, the mature adults congregate in St Helena and Port Royal Sounds.
Interest in culturing cobia in the US has been based on the successful commercialization of this species in Asia. Spawning and nursery production systems have been developed but grow-out is currently restricted to areas with naturally warm water. As such, grow-out trials are underway or planned in cages located in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. This species exhibits extremely rapid growth and under good growing conditions, can attain a weight of 10-15 lbs. during its first year of life. In the US, research focus is to refine controlled spawning techniques and to develop suitable indoor culture systems. Besides this national aquaculture focus, studies are underway in SC using releases of hatchery fish to gain information on life history characteristics (e.g. growth rates, movements).