Friday, July 15, 2011

Fish Farming

It is the wave of the future and but another sign of human technology improving natural resources, putting more—and improved—fish on the table and compensating for species-in-the-wild depletion from commercial fishing, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

An excerpt.

“The leader of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration visited Carlsbad Monday to launch a national initiative for creating jobs and increasing seafood production by fostering public-private partnerships in fish farming.

“Agency officials said the so-called Aquaculture Technology Transfer Initiative will support projects that show promise for creating jobs while maintaining environmental protections.

“It’s a tricky balance for NOAA, which didn’t announce any money for the project and faces opposition from some environmental groups that oppose aquaculture as a source of ocean pollution.

“NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco is in San Diego this week for an international convention about managing tuna and other far-ranging species. On Monday, she toured a fish farm in Carlsbad that is run by the nonprofit Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute to augment the wild population of white sea bass.

“This facility really shows what potential exists in expanding sustainable marine aquaculture in the U.S,” Lubchenco said. “As we turn the corner to ending overfishing with wild-caught fisheries, I think it’s particularly important to simultaneously build a sustainable aquaculture industry here in the United States.”

“Lubchenco said the national initiative was part of an attempt to grow aquaculture by helping to develop technologies that advance the science, prioritizing grant money for innovative work, offering guidance for projects in the regulatory process and other measures. She said the agency was looking to leverage outside funding to support up to six cutting-edge efforts.

“While there are no commercial fish farms in federal waters on the West Coast, Hubbs-SeaWorld in 2009 tried to get permission for a large-scale research project using tens of thousands of striped bass off Mission Beach. Those plans were tangled in regulations and never materialized — but the Obama administration’s increasingly vocal support of aquaculture is raising hopes that the project could be revived.

“Don Kent, president and chief executive of the research institute, compared developing aquaculture techniques to building an aircraft. After years of growing fish at the Carlsbad facility, he said, “It’s time to take that technology and fly it.”

“Lubchenco said it’s too early for that.

“There are still a lot of questions to be answered,” she said. “What we are signaling with this announcement is our desire to work together to get the answers.”

“In June, the Department of Commerce and NOAA released broad national policies they said supported sustainable marine aquaculture. Lubchenco called fish farming “a critical component to meeting increasing global demand for seafood.”

“Americans import about 84 percent of their seafood, half of which is from aquaculture. The U.S. trade deficit in seafood tops $10 billion and continues to grow, while domestic fish farming supplies about 5 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States. Domestic production is largely on land-based waterways, ponds and coastal state waters, not federal waters that start 3 miles offshore.”