I've been bombarded with conversations about offshore fish farms and aquaculture projects, most likely in the Gulf. I've done a little reading, just trying to keep up, and have my own ideas, but I was curious what the seasoned anglers on this forum thought about the idea of fish farms offshore. Do they increase pollution? Are they worth it? Will they hurt recreational fishing if cobia, for example, become so inexpensive because they're farmed that no one bothers to target them in the wild? This is obviously dependent on the species, but does the threat of farmed fish escaping create worry?
Again, just curious...
You can learn more about the proposed open water aquaculture projects here:
To address some of the issues raised by HST:
A lot has been learned about these problems from the salmon farming industry and the hope is to avoid repeating the same mistakes. What has been learned is that disease and parasite problems most frequently occur in shallow, poorly flushed areas. Transmission to wild populations can be avoided by locating the net pens in areas where there are few or no native species. Locating aquaculture facilities in deep water areas away from natural reef structures should reduce the likelihood of disease transmission.
The permitting process for the Gulf specifically prevents the development of captive brood stocks, genetically modified fish, or "domesticated" strains. All penned fish must originate from wild fish that are collected for one time breeding purposes. While penned fish can reproduce naturally (particularly cobia) and potentially reduce genetic diversity, the location of the pens in areas that do not support nature recruitment would greatly reduce potential effects. Only a tiny fraction of eggs produced in even the correct environments survive in any case.
This issue is often brought up by folks who oppose fish aquaculture, but it does not make sense. Penned fish use far less energy since they do not migrate over long distances or need to chase down prey. So the conversion of biomass (like baitfish) to product is much more efficient for penned fish. I don't have specific information for redfish, snapper, or cobia, but there is good data for salmon. Penned salmon can have a conversion factor as high as 2. So 2 lb of feed can produce 1 lb of salmon. For wild salmon the factor is at least 10. Plus, there has been a lot of progress in the fish farming industry toward reducing the amount of baitfish protein in fish feed and replacing it with terrestrial protein sources. This not only decreases the impact on baitfish populations but also greatly reduces the mercury level in the farmed fish relative to wild caught fish.
The current permitting program for Gulf aquaculture is really just an experiment. The permits will be limited to a small number of operations and all aspects of the environmental impact will be carefully monitored. There is a greater risk that the program will fail to produce fish in an economically feasible manner than have a negative impact on the environment.
Ocean aquaculture is only in the development stage for now. But some day it may replace commercial fishing the way that terrestrial agriculture replaced market hunting.
I am not surprised that someone filed a lawsuit against this, but it seems almost unfeasible to try this in the Gulf anyway. Lawsuit seems frivolous to me, but as Tom noted in another thread, its a way of life these days with Gulf fisheries. Recs sue because of changes, comms sue because of changes. And nothing really changes from the lawsuit; win or lose.
As Doc said, offshore aquaculture seems more likely to fail than to succeed. Hurricanes, red tides, etc., will make this very difficult to ensure that operations, costing millions of dollars to develop and operate, will be successful. Expensive learning curve for a failure.
The gulf is tied in a knot of regulations. Too many positioned to take advantage of the status quo. I agree with Bubba II, lawsuits by the established beneficiaries of the current system would be a large hurdle.
My posts are my opinion only.
Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for. Will Rogers
Cobia are native to tropical oceans around the world with the exception of the eastern Pacific. So the Ecuador escape has resulted in the introduction of a non-native species, which can have unpredictable effects on the natural ecosystem. Whether or not these fish can become established in the wild is not known. In general, farming non-native species in ocean pens is a bad idea and is one of the things that is covered in the Gulf of Mexico Pilot Program.
The program has been challenged in court by GOM commercial fishing interests. While this was predictable, it is very short sited. Seafood is a global commodity, which is why most US seafood is now imported. If cobia farming turns out to be profitable and sustainable, it is going to develop in other countries no matter what happens in the US. It will just a matter of whether the farmed fish will be coming from US or foreign companies.
IMO, the US commercial fishermen would be better served by cooperating with the Pilot Program in the GOM. They are the people best positioned to participate in the industry if it can be developed here. If they oppose aquaculture, the industry and the jobs that will be created will happen in other countries.