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Old 02-02-2009, 04:00 PM
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Default Institute proposing fish farm in federal waters

Institute proposing fish farm in federal waters

Project off San Diego still must clear hurdles

By Mike Lee
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
2:00 a.m. February 2, 2009

Five miles west of Mission Beach, scientists hope to build a floating ranch for millions of fish that would eventually land on dinner plates across the country.
Aquaculture specialists at the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in San Diego could pioneer an era of marine food production in the United States, which relies heavily on imports to meet a growing appetite for seafood. Their project would be the first of its kind in federal waters – widely seen as a prime zone for expanding aquaculture.
But if the respected Hubbs organization is unable to get through the daunting permit process, the setback is likely to discourage others from launching similar ventures.
The $17 million operation could start by early 2011 if all goes well.
Hubbs officials have repeatedly emphasized the project's potential benefits, including reducing pressure on depleted ocean fisheries, to regional and state leaders in recent months.
They also are touting the idea at the international Seafood Summit in San Diego, where commercial fishing groups, conservationists, policymakers and marine scientists are discussing sustainable fishing. The conference will run through Wednesday.
“Somebody has to lead the way. Somebody has to take the technologies and apply them,” Hubbs President Donald Kent said. “We think it's a great opportunity for San Diego to lead the nation.”
The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce recently endorsed Hubbs'proposal, and one of California's top marine regulators gave it a positive initial review.
Hubbs' leaders “see the time as being right, and I think they are probably right,” said Peter Douglas, executive director of the California Coastal Commission. The commission would have to approve the project along with agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Douglas met with Hubbs officials in December and came away impressed.
“They really did their homework. They have addressed virtually every issue that we have raised,” he said.
Hubbs' operation would cover about 30 football fields' worth of the ocean's surface in water that's approximately 300 feet deep.
At first, the institute would deploy eight circular nets – each large enough to hold about 125,000 fish. The nets would be anchored to the sea floor and stocked with striped bass, a fish that was introduced to California more than 100 years ago. The captive bass would grow for about two years until they top 2 pounds each, at which point they would be collected in batches and sold to seafood wholesalers.
The species was chosen for several reasons, including the availability of juveniles for rearing and what Hubbs researchers said were slim chances that any escaped fish would disrupt the native food chain.
Over five years, Hubbs would install 24 pens and produce 3,000 metric tons of fish annually – about three times the current commercial fish harvest brought ashore in San Diego County.
That would provide a dramatic boost to the state's aquaculture industry, which generates about $100 million in revenue each year for seafood producers. At full capacity, Hubbs officials said, they could raise about 3 million fish per year worth $21 million.
To succeed, fish-farm owners have to minimize navigation hazards for passing vessels, calm fishermen's fears about competition, allay concerns about pollution from fish waste and limit the number of fish that escape or spread disease.
Environmentalists have sought stronger controls on fish farms in California and elsewhere to limit their effect on the marine environment. But some of them said a top-rate operation would provide a good example for future aquaculture projects.
“We are going in with the awareness that a lot of the existing aquaculture can be a dirty practice and it's not done sustainably,” said Scott Harrison, chairman of the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a coastal watchdog group.
Last week, Harrison was among a handful of environmental leaders who listened to Kent's pitch.
“We have a measure of skepticism,” Harrison said, “(but) we are remaining open” to the proposal.
Kent also has invited anglers to weigh in. Although a new aquaculture operation would probably hire fishermen to tend nets and do other tasks, some worry about downsides such as the facility's potential to attract sea lions, endanger boaters and prevent fishermen from harvesting in the area.
“I am critical of the location, and I want to ensure that no legitimate fisherman is pushed out,” said John Law, a longtime commercial fisherman who plies the area being eyed for the project.
Aquaculture operations stretch from Hawaii to Maine in freshwater and near-shore areas, including bays. Some marine experts see open-ocean fish farming – the kind planned by Hubbs – as the future of the industry.
Compared with near-shore aquaculture projects, those in federal waters – three to 200 miles from the coastline – would face less competition for space from residents, recreationalists and other interest groups.
Hubbs chose the spot off Mission Beach for factors such as consistently mild water temperature, water purity and the appropriate ocean depth. Its leaders hope to prevent run-ins with boaters by setting their pens five miles from the shoreline, where leisure traffic is limited.
Currents at the site are expected to disperse fish feces so they won't collect on the ocean floor below the farm.
Kent is convinced the aquaculture project would succeed partly because of Hubbs' experience in raising white seabass at a hatchery in Carlsbad since 1995. Those fish are released at several locations along Southern California's coast to augment populations in the wild.
Hubbs also has experimented with aquaculture nets on a small scale in the waters off Baja California, where the Mexican government grants permits in a matter of weeks instead of years. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which helps regulate marine fisheries, funded that project.
Fred Conte, an aquaculture specialist at the University of California Davis, said Hubbs-SeaWorld is the right group to advance the industry.
“They are a research institution which would be closely monitored by the state and feds,” Conte said. “They aren't looking to make a profit right off the bat.”
Kent said he wants to refine the fish-farming process and set industry standards for environmental protection. Then, the nonprofit Hubbs would transfer day-to-day operations to a for-profit corporation. The two sides would share revenue through a licensing agreement.
Hubbs plans to keep control of the fish farm's permits so it can ensure the scientific integrity of the project. Kent envisions that some local fishermen would work at the facility while others would eventually strike out on their own with similar operations.
The institute's blueprint hinges on government approval.
Several fishery experts said the federal regulatory process, which involves multiple agencies, poses a major barrier to offshore aquaculture. But they also said the Hubbs proposal could blaze a trail through the bureaucracy.
Michael Rubino, aquaculture chief for the U.S. oceanic administration, said his agency will help with the federal review of Hubbs'permits in the coming months.
“We really have a choice as a country,” Rubino said. “If we are going to eat more seafood, we are either going to import more of it – and most of that is from aquaculture – or we can choose to grow more of it at home.”
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Old 02-02-2009, 04:01 PM
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Default Re: Institute proposing fish farm in federal waters

The Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute has experimented with aquaculture nets in the waters off Baja California. (Mariacultura Del Norte) -

Longtime commercial fisherman John Law is a critic of the Institute's proposed location for a fish farm. (John Gibbins / Union Tribune)

China accounts for about 70 percent of the world's aquaculture products.
The United States has a seafood trade deficit of $9 billion a year.
U.S. aquaculture production generates roughly $1 billion annually.
Freshwater species make up 80 percent of domestic aquaculture.
SOURCES: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
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Old 02-02-2009, 04:11 PM
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Default Re: Institute proposing fish farm in federal waters

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The institute would stock their nets with striped bass, a fish introduced to California more than 100 years ago. (SeaWorld)

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Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute President Donald Kent says: "Somebody has to lead the way. Somebody has to take the technologies and apply them." (John Gibbins / Union Tribune)
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Old 02-02-2009, 04:17 PM
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Default Re: Institute proposing fish farm in federal waters

Read the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute's proposal for a fish farm off the coast of San Diego.

The Proposal
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Old 02-04-2009, 05:35 PM
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Default Re: Institute proposing fish farm in federal waters

That's pretty cool! Thank you for sharing it with us. As long as it's safe for the environment I'm all for it. Maybe it would allow us to further restrict commercial bass fishing (gamefish status). Anything that helps sustain our fisheries is a good idea and we need to be investing in new ways to drive our economy forward.
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Old 02-07-2009, 06:40 AM
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Default Re: Institute proposing fish farm in federal waters

If it alleviates the raping of our oceans, then it's a good thing. Prolly costly, I would think.
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Old 02-07-2009, 06:49 PM
oldgoat oldgoat is offline
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Default Re: Institute proposing fish farm in federal waters

Striper farming is not new.If i remember correctly it started in old buildings in western Massachusetts and raised fish about 13-16"long for markets like Legal Sea foods in Boston.Ithink it would be smart to talk to people near other farm sites such as Salmon sites. I,m not against moving forward but i wouldbe concerned about fish poop on the bottom.This is a great topic and i would like to here from others
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Old 02-07-2009, 11:07 PM
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Default Re: Institute proposing fish farm in federal waters

if they can farm striped bass in the deserts of arizona then it can be done anywhere. the freshwater farming of bass relys on the second tanks that are where the tank water is constantly recycled. they send the farm tank water into another and along that route there are talapia (filter feeders) whice are fed with the waste and water is filtered again and recycled back into the original bass tanks. no water is wasted and kept at a steady temp. they are selling bass and talapia; great gig. offshore farms are the way to go as nobody really knows how long it will be before the stocks of all species are affected. the natural flow of things has been compromised but if they allow for some release of the "herd - if you will" to continue the feeding of other species then yea, as long as we keep our food in this country. i don;t feel we should be spending millions to ship food out to the bloodsuckers who are taking way too much as it is. get the hell out of american waters you freaken poachers.

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Old 02-10-2009, 12:35 PM
Bent/Bolt Bent/Bolt is offline
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Default Re: Institute proposing fish farm in federal waters

Great idea
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Old 04-02-2009, 10:35 PM
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Default Re: Institute proposing fish farm in federal waters

Researchers eye coastal fish farm off shores of Mission Beach

San Diego News Sebastian Ruiz

The aquaculture project, which would likely include striped bass, white bass, California halibut and California yellowtail (shown here), would be designed to help the fishing industry keep up with U.S. demand for seafood.

Researchers from the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute propose building a fish farm as big as 30 football fields just five miles off the coast of Mission Beach. The aquaculture would help the fishing industry keep up with U.S. demand for seafood, according to Mark Drawbridge, director of the aquaculture project.
With the U.S. importing as much as 80 percent of its seafood, a successful aquaculture could spawn an entire domestic fishing industry, said Drawbridge.
“We are looking to launch the … project to demonstrate the commercial and environmental adequacy of the offshore [fish] farming,” Drawbridge said. “We’ve been doing research for about 30 years. The situation right now is that capture fisheries can’t keep up with the demand [for seafood].”
Hubbs-SeaWorld researchers envision 24 net pens secured to the sandy ocean bottom about five miles off the Mission Beach coastline. Producing 3,000 metric tons of fish a year could contribute an estimated $25 million or more annually to the U.S. fishing industry, Drawbridge said.
The institute wants to farm striped bass, white bass, California halibut and California yellowtail, Drawbridge said.
Local fishing industry representatives have reportedly come on board with the project.
Hubbs-SeaWorld operates a white sea bass hatchery in Carlsbad, which helps the local fishing industry, according to Catherine Miller, a representative of the San Diego Sportfishing Council. The institute grows and releases “fingerlings” into the ocean and electronically tracks the fish movement.
Bob Fletcher, president of the Sportfishing Association of California, said the institute has addressed the local fishing industry’s concerns over location.
Fletcher said Hubbs-SeaWorld researchers did not propose building the pens in popular ocean fishing grounds frequented by local private fishermen.
“As a result of that cooperation with the industry, the fishermen are in support of the Hubbs-SeaWorld program,” Fletcher said.
Steve Foltz, vice president of Chesapeake Fishing Company, a seafood distributor based at the San Diego Bay, agreed. He said the project is a good thing all around because it would help meet consumer demand.
Environmentalists remain skeptical but are open to the project, said Bill Hickman, executive director of the Surfrider Foundation in San Diego.
Concerns include pollution from fish feed and waste, the attraction of predators such as seals and sharks, and escaping fish. Hubbs-SeaWorld researchers say the fish, native to the California coast, do not represent a threat to the ocean environment, however.
Currents would carry fish waste away and nets around the fish farm would keep predators at bay, according to Hubbs-SeaWorld officials.
“I don’t know if we would support it but we wouldn’t be opposed to it,” Hickman said. “If it moves forward we want to make sure it’s done properly.”
Hubbs-SeaWorld must acquire permits from the California Coastal Commission before it can begin construction within a few years, officials said.
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