Meeting tonight on marine fish farming

12/10/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

Tonight in St. Petersburg there will be a public hearing to discuss offshore marine fish farming.

The meetings has been called by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. Tentative plans are to allow open water aquaculture off the gulf – growing fish in nets or cages between 3 and 200 miles from shore.

But there are environmental concerns.

Currently, the U.S. imports around 80 percent of its seafood. Although there has been discussion by the federal government to allow fish farming off the Florida coast for sometime, the government finally began getting serious about a plan back in January.
Officials say they hope to formally announce a final plan next month.

Marriane Cufone, who works with Food and Water Watch, says the gulf has been damaged from storms the perpetual algae bloom the past few years, and more pollution would be disturbing.

And she says there are a whole host of other issues that must be dealt with.

Federal fisheries regulators are considering a program allowing 10-year permits for companies interested in offshore aquaculture. But even if they were permitted, startup costs are prohibitive, with estimates of millions of dollars being required to establish a station.

Richard Langan is a professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Aquatic Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center, where he has operated four cages 40 feet below the surface, in waters 6 miles off the coast of New Hampshire.

Langan says he works with native species of cod, haddock and halibut. And, he says, cod and halibut have the best chance of being economically viable.

He says environmental standards need to be set; he doesn’t expect those to be written in the legislation, but established in the rule-making process.

Tonight’s meeting is being presented by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. WMNF attempted to speak to the Councl’s Wayne Swingle, but he did not return our call for comment.

A similar meeting is being held simultaneously in Houston, with meetings scheduled later this week in New Orleans and Biloxi, Missippippi. Tonight’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. and run until 9 p.m. It is being held at the Comfort Inn in St Petersburg, 2260 54th Ave. N.

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