Further and Deeper -- Developing Technology for Next-Generation Mariculture
In order to keep pace with growing global demand for seafood, marine
aquaculture will have to expand. The vast majority of mariculture is conducted
in protected embayments and estuaries, where farm effluent accumulation
and interactions with wild stocks can cause environmental disruptions.
To produce marine fish on the scale required by global demand, there is
only one real solution: mariculture must move further offshore, into the
deeper waters of the open oceans. Here, the tremendous assimilative capability
of the sea is in full effect, potentially allowing a responsible mariculture
operation to produce delicous, healthy fish with virtually no negative
impacts to the ocean environment.
Named for a genus of small drifting pelagic hydrozoan, the Velella Project is the world's first "beta-test" of an unanchored free-drifting oceanic fish culture system. The Velella array consists of a 132 cubic meter brass-netted Aquapod® net pen produced by Ocean Farm Technologies, of Maine attached by a combined towing/umbilical line to the 65-foot staysail schooner S/V Machias, which serves as the farm tender, dive platform, crew quarters, and operations center. By drifting on the ocean currents in waters two to three miles deep, the Velella is essentially "perpetually fallow", with no direct connection between the seafloor and the farm. No build up of effluent, no impact to wild stocks -- just clean fish growing in clean water.
In May 2011, the Velella was deployed from the harbor at Kawahihae, Hawaii into the open ocean West of Hawaii Island. In July 2011, the Velella was stocked with around 2,000 Kampachi fingerlings. These fish, the first ever raised in a drifting pelagic farm, accheived outstanding health and growth performance, reaching the usual harvest size by December, 2011. Roughly half of the fish were harvested to reduce the density inside the cage, and the remainder were harvested in mid-February 2012.
This research is only made possible through the generous
and visionary support of the following organizations:
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