A proposed fish farm in the Gulf of Mexico is making waves

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:

A fish farm is being proposed along Florida’s Gulf Coast to mixed reviews.

The project would be located about 45 miles from Sarasota’s Coast. The Gulf is like a magnet for fish farms, yet… not everyone is on board.

Neil Anthony Sims is the founder and CEO of Ocean Era Inc. and believes in the future of aquaculture.

“The goal of this project is to show to the Florida fishing and boating community that offshore aquaculture can be something that they can learn to love and embrace,” said Sims.

The Hawaii-based company is his latest venture. “Our goal here is to set up a very small-scale single cohort, one batch of fish, only 20,000 fish, which that’s about one percent of what the size of a commercial farm might be, and to then grow those fish through to harvest size,” Sims said.

Captain Gene Luciano of Dalis Fishing Charters in Naples thinks aquaculture could be beneficial in the Gulf. “It could be very good for the tourists that are fishing or for local people that want to go out and fish,” said Captain Luciano.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wants to expand aquaculture to the Gulf of Mexico.

But groups like the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, while they aren’t typically opposed to aquaculture, say in this instance it could harm the environment and the economy.

James Evans is the Director of Policy for SCCF. “This project is proposed in an area that’s right in the initiation and intensification zone for red tide, the Florida red tide organism that, of course, can kill fish and have major economic impacts,” said Evans.

“We don’t need another source of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous to fertilize our gulf waters,” he added.

Graduate students from the University of Miami will be at the site of the potential project to collect water samples to assess the quality of the fish farm.

If they move forward with the project, the system could be deployed in 12 to 18 months.

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