Fish Farm: Environmental Go or No-No?

Proposed fish farm has industry talking

If you've eaten fish lately, it likely was not caught near the United States.

"A lot of the fish that we get, sea bass in general, we get it from Mexico, we get it from Australia, New Zealand.  A lot of that stuff is imported," said Darren Gorski, the Seafood Manager of The Fish Market of Mission Beach, Calif.

In fact, more than 80 percent of the fish served in the U.S. is imported, and Americans eat about 5 billion pounds of it every year.

That demand, researchers say, has the ocean in trouble.

"If we are to meet future demands for seafood, farming has got to come into play," said Mark Drawbridge of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.  "It's already coming in play in other parts of the world."

The Reasearch Institute has plans to build a fish farm -- an Aquaculture (.pdf) -- which consists of 24 enclosed, netted pens.  They're the size of 30 football fields which would sit off the coast of Mission Beach.  From egg to net, SeaWorld wants 3 million striped bass, white bass, California halibut and yellowtail.

And seafood companies like The Fish Market said they'll appreciate the move to go local.

"With us, we're a sustainable food company, and as far as having an environmentally safe and sustainable farm, that would be awesome," Gorski said.

Of course, there is debate in the industry over the safety of the fish and the rapid expansion of fish being farmed.

The project would take up to a year to pass, and SeaWorld promises the environmental benefit would outweigh the impact.

"The fish that ends up on your place, using salmon as an example, is more often than not raised in Chile, flown to China for packaging, and then ends up on our plates."
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