Breeding Dory: Rising Tide Conservation Updates with Matt DiMaggio and Eric Cassiano

Dr. Roy Yanong on Pet Life Radio

The summer of 2016 saw a major triumph for Rising Tide Conservation, with the successful spawning and rearing of Pacific Blue Tangs at the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory. “Breeding Dory” became the headlines and story for news outlets around the world. But commercialization is still in progress, and many other species are also in Rising Tide’s sights.

Matt DiMaggio and Eric Cassiano, two UF scientists instrumental in the success of the Pacific Blue Tang project, continue their efforts to support aquaculture of aquarium species and support conservation. Join us, as Matt and Eric describe their Rising Tide research and the excitement of “Breeding Dory.” 


Eric J. Cassiano, MS

Eric Cassiano is an Assistant Extension Scientist at the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory (TAL).  He has been at TAL since 2010 where his previous research focused on the production of live feeds for and larviculture of marine ornamental fish species.  Recently, he has accepted his current position at TAL wherein he provides assistance to Florida’s ornamental fish production industry.  He has given many presentations as well as written numerous scientific journal articles, technical papers, and magazine articles on TAL’s research findings. 
He stumbled into the world of aquaculture in 2003 by accident, when he volunteered to help a friend maintain the oyster hatchery at Oregon State University.  After realizing that he loved growing animals in water, he decided to return to the east coast to pursue his academic endeavors in aquaculture.  In 2006, he began a project that exposed him to the issue of first feeding marine fish and the problems encountered when examining certain ‘difficult to rear’ marine fish species.  In a nutshell, he began growing microalgae and copepods and gaining a greater understanding of marine recirculating systems.  In 2010, he began a position at TAL; which is a member of Rising Tide Conservation.  Rising Tide Conservation is a group of research facilities, industry partners, and public aquariums dedicated to providing an alternative to wild-caught fisheries by developing aquaculture techniques for marine ornamental fish species.  In his current position as Assistant Extension Scientist he provides assistance to Florida’s ornamental fish industry.  This varied position acts as the bridge between academia and industry and entails a wide range of aspects dealing with both freshwater and marine ornamental fish production.    

Matt DiMaggio, MS, PhD

Assistant Professor
Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory – University of Florida/IFAS

Matt DiMaggio is an assistant professor and extension specialist at the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory at the University of Florida/IFAS (UF-TAL). Matt has worked in the aquaculture field for over ten years and has a broad foundation, having conducted research with both marine and freshwater fish species produced for food, bait, and ornamental purposes. His research program focuses on the culture of ornamental fish species in Florida, and he works closely with the local industry to identify opportunities for optimization and innovation.

Cultivation of marine ornamental species has been a particular research focus at the UF-TAL. It is estimated that over 11 million marine fish, representing 1,800 unique species, are sold annually into the ornamental trade; with the majority of specimens resulting from wild capture. Growing interest in marine ornamental species coupled with increased knowledge regarding their captive care requirements has resulted in 700,000 US households which currently maintain marine aquaria. Development of captive culture protocols for species currently collected from the wild may help to promote conservation of these fisheries through sustainable aquaculture methods. Through continued research and collaboration with Rising Tide Conservation, Matt and the rest of the team at the UF-TAL have made some significant breakthroughs in the field, such as culturing the melanurus wrasse and Pacific blue tang for the first time ever in captivity.