America’s running a deep seafood deficit.
We control more ocean than any nation in the world – a whopping 2.8 billion acres – yet we import 91 percent of the seafood we eat.
But if Don Kent, president and CEO of Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, gets his way, a big part of the solution will be floating four and a half miles off the sands of Mission Beach, and it will mark a significant milestone in the nation’s efforts to cultivate seafood.
Dubbed the Rose Canyon Fisheries Sustainable Aquaculture Project, a partnership between Hubbs and private equity firm Cuna Del Mar, it will be the first commercial offshore fish operation in the United States. The term “offshore” means the farm will sit beyond the three-mile mark typically regulated by the state, but still within federal waters.
The sheer size of the project – 29,000 square meters, or about six football fields — means it will be the first and most ambitious offshore operation of its kind. The project will start with half-a-million yellowtail the first year, with the ability to scale up to 10 million fish per year (5,000 metric tons) at full capacity.
The vision for Rose Canyon has been in the works for at least a decade. In 2004, Kent explored the idea of placing an aquaculture site near a decommissioned oil rig. But the rig didn’t stay decommissioned for long. Later, in 2009, Kent tried to secure permits to place a cage system off of La Jolla, but that project eventually floundered too.
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"He’s been in talks with local San Diego businesses, including Chesapeake Fish Company, about the idea of using the scraps they generate as feed;"
Isn't there a problem with feeding animals parts of the same species that are dead? I think I recall this regarding cattle.
There are a lot of very educated, thoughtful commentary here. But there is one point that seems to be over looked which is that the US has gone from a net seafood exporter to a 90 percent net seafood importer. That's not due merely to population growth but overfishing of wild caught fish.
It's true that ocean aquaculture needs to develop farming of plankton feeding fish species, as well as subgroups of the mackerel family and other pelagic fish. Initially use of shore sourced feeds will probably be necessary. The is a conversion from plankton to lbs of fish and plankton feeders to lbs of mackerel that needs to be established and the cost benefit worked out in terms of viability as a business. We can thank the CIA for stealing marine research funding, setting Aquaculture back twenty years, so they could make a failed attempt to raise Russian submarine. I was in my second year at FIT's aquaculture program at their Jensen Beach Campus in the early 1980's when government funding for the State-of-the-Art aquaculture farm near West Palm Beach mysteriously vanished. The aquaculture farm was FIT's prime case study for their program and I ended up dropping out and reenlisting to pursue my degrees in other different fields.
But I never stopped following aquaculture and fishing developments with chagrin as fishermen continued to destroy their own resource and refused to put anything into fishery management or aquaculture.
It's essential that aquaculture become sustainable and fully green but to get their it needs to exist first. We need to first establish working aquaculture industry then mold it (probably with a social sledgehammer at times) into a green and sustainable technology. Keep in mind aquaculture has been around for literally thousands of years but albeit historically sustainable at the limited scales we are talking about sustainability as scales that would dwarf the entire history of aquaculture to date.
First Rose needs to build the initial concept, then the US Fish and Game, EPA, and FDA need to create the impetus via regulation to direct Rose and other Ocean Aquaculture operation to build in complexity until they have created a managed ecosystem which grows plankton to pelagic species and probably incorporates energy production, water management and other aspects. It can be designed and built. It will have to be developed through trial and error. It will have to be a coordinated effort of business, venture capitalism, researchers, engineers, regulation as well as aquaculturists to pull it off.
Our kids are depending on us to get this right. It will be in their lifetime if not ours that there will be 12 billion of us looking for a meal three times a day. I'd prefer fish to soylent green. Lets work to correct and get involved more than complain.
This is just another example of factory farming. It is not sustainable. Are they planning on feeding 10 million fish GMO soy and corn just like the other fish farms? If so, I wouldn't eat that fish if I cared about my health or the health of my family. Unhealthy food, pollution (currents carry it somewhere), and parasites--oh yeah, I'm sure that's not sustainable! It IS going to negatively impact the entire local ecosystem.
Then don't eat it.
Parasites are an issue but can be overcome. Factory Farming is sustainable and as time goes on will absolutely be needed to meet the needs of world populations.
But as Peter Brownell points out they are predators. Feed stock will have to be a sub industry in itself.
It seems kind of odd to mention an algae as a potential feed, as Yellowtail are predators. Folks should remember that "farming" fish like yellowtail or salmon is more like "farming" tigers than it is like farming hogs or chickens. You need to feed them other (smaller) fish or fish meal. But Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood watch lists farmed Yellowtail as a fish to avoid "due to concern about the reliance on wild-caught fish for feed, parasite transfer to wild stocks, and water pollution," and does say that there is a southern California and Baja handline commercial fishery. Not all Yellowtail is coming from fish farms outside California, this farm would be competing with more sustainable harvested commercial fisheries. http://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/groups/yellowtail/overview. More detail about the commercial fishery from CA Department of Fish and Game is here (although from 2001): https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=34379
We had some open-ocean farmed fish in Hawaii last month. Delicious!
I have often wondered why we can't farm fish like the ancient Hawaiians did. I understand the numbers would preclude the bays they built but it seems we could make use of their technologies.
Nice piece Clare. Very informative.
I'm all for the native species approach but until the concept is tested non native species would be getting ahead of themselves.
Importing 91% of our seafood is a huge problem with seafood consumption growing rapidly, and anything that could reverse this trend should be good news. As an avid recreational fisherman, I’m somewhat skeptical, but with all the whacko groups automatically opposing it, the vetting will be both thorough and lengthy. The key issue is what the feed stock will be, and it’s effect on the marine environment.
We need new sources of seafood. Yellowtail is a great fish to start with; it grows fairly rapidly, tastes good, is quite hearty and native, and inevitably some fish will escape to the wild to increase the sport fishing stock. Let’s go!
I’m glad to read that the fish farm proposal would have yellowtail, a native species.The editorial in the U-T, however, suggests the overall proposal includes striped bass, a non-native species.http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/oct/07/fish-farm-mission-beach-hubbs-seaworld/Could the reporter clarify which species will actually be involved?Thanks.
@Brian Peterson Hi Brian,
That’s a great question. The HSWRI Executive Summary report says:
"Yellowtail jack has been chosen as the initial species as cultured juveniles are readily available from HSWRI hatcheries. The site will also be permitted for other local species which will be interchangeable with yellowtail jack when the project has become operational and depending on availability of juveniles and permit conditions."
"The proposed project will grow yellowtail jack (Seriola lalandi), or other local species such as white seabass and striped bass, one species at a time in open ocean cages 4.5 miles (7.2 km) from shore."
But then for Striped Bass uses the following description, which doesn’t really get into how native it is or isn’t:
Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)
Striped bass have a long culture history in the US, dating back to 1884. By the early 1970’s, significant advances in hatchery technologies supported numerous hatchery facilities across the U.S for stock replenishment purposes. Many of these hatcheries now support the commercial culture of striped bass and striped bass hybrids in the US. Market size for this species is between 1-2 kg. Their production cycle can range from 24–36 months depending on water temperature.
Striped bass was introduced in California as far back as 1879, but I don’t think that would qualify it as native today. I did forward your question to the folks involved with the project, but have not heard back. I'll post when I get a response. Thanks! ~~Clare