Plan for offshore ‘farm’ detailed

Aquaculture off SD coast being developed

Don Kent, president of the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute, paid a visit to the Del Mar Rotary Club on April 23 to discuss his organization’s plans to construct a fish farm five miles off the coast of San Diego.

Currently, we as a nation import more than 80 percent of our seafood, half of which is farmed, Kent said.

China produces 70 percent of all farmed seafood, and seafood is second only to oil as a contributor to our national trade deficit.

Kent and his research team believe that using fish farming, also known as aquaculture, will not only be beneficial in terms of lessening our dependence on foreign sources for seafood, but will also decrease the devastation of overfished oceans.

“It is estimated that a third of our planet’s fish populations are either over-exploited, another third wholly exploited, and then the remaining stocks aren’t large enough to support growing demand,” Kent said.

Because of depleted fish populations, fishermen have to go farther out to catch fish, spending more energy. Fishermen are also restricted by regulations on fishing and marine protected areas, even though these are necessary to preserve fish populations, Kent said.

“The end product of all this is we have a growing demand and diminishing supply,” Kent said.

“It’s estimated that increasing demand around the world will be about 40 million metric tons more in the next 20 years,” he said. He also said that importing seafood leaves a large carbon footprint.

Kent said San Diego was an ideal location for such a fish farm, citing the city’s technology base; the coastline’s relatively calm waters and proximity to the existing fish industry.

Aquaculture is also more efficient than fishing in the wild, he said. “One of the big advantages of aquaculture is that you don’t have to harvest the fish until the demand is there.

“When you’re fishing for fish in the wild, you get what you can. You bring them to the dock, and then you either have to freeze them or sell them as quickly as you can. These fish don’t have to be taken out of the cage until somebody says, ‘I need two tons of fish Tuesday morning.’”

If all goes as planned, Kent said we are four to five years away from seeing production output from local aquaculture.

The Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute, founded in 1963, is a nonprofit dedicated to research seeking solutions to problems resulting from humans’ impact on the ocean.

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