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Offshore Aquaculture

Offshore Aquaculture

Viewpoints

Dr. John Volpe

Dr. John Volpe

Assistant Professor of Invasion and Fisheries Biology at the University of Alberta.

The economies of scale that are being talked about in the offshore industry is about generating profit, not about generating food. This is the leading edge of a privatization that has a much broader horizon. With just aquaculture, we're looking at tapping the common resources in the ocean itself. The future plans are very worrying. The individual states along the West Coast particularly have run across very strident oppositions with the coastal aquaculture model. So the motivation now on the part of the federal government is to remove the jurisdiction from the states, off shore and in the economic exclusion zone. We're moving coastal or state input in the decisions. We're taking a very flawed model that is essentially a net loss of protein production and then amplifying that model hundreds, perhaps thousands of times.

This is really a money grab and is the leading edge of the privatization of the offshore environment, the last common, truly common environment left on this earth – the privatization of the ocean.

Aquaculture is the way of the future and there's definitely room for aquaculture on this coast. What there is not room for is this simple Wild West, money grubbing, economic bottom-line-only model. We need to produce food, not profit.


Linda Chaves

Linda Chaves

Aquaculture Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

One of the reasons that aquaculture is going to be so important for us in the future is that we have calculated that by 2025, we're going to need 4 million metric tons more seafood than we are currently consuming today, in this country. There is no way that that production is going to come from wild stock fisheries, so we're going to have to go to aquaculture.

By moving the aquaculture industry offshore, we can move into cleaner, deeper waters, we can reduce conflicts with coastal users and we can provide a much better environment for aquaculture operations to exist. The aquaculture industry is going to keep growing globally and it only makes sense to have some of the economic benefits for that expansion accrue to the United States.

We expect that as a regulatory framework is established for this development in the offshore area there will be regulations, there will be environmental monitoring requirements, and new environmental standards may need to be established. I imagine that there will be an opportunity for considerable public debate as we know that this is an issue that has gained the interest of many people.

NOAA is working with industry partners to see what types of different species they'd like to culture. We don't have any preconceived ideas of what fish ought to be cultured. Just about anything is possible. We will be looking at a number of different species.


Dr. Sylvia Earle

Dr. Sylvia Earle

Oceanographer, marine botanist, author and former Chief Scientist at NOAA

For years, I've really looked at the pros and cons of aquaculture and thought what about the open ocean? It's just like the Wild West in times of past, there's a lot of land out there available for agriculture. Why can't we take the same concept and go to the ocean and raise things out there in the ocean, and you know, I can understand the appeal. But I think we know so little at this point in time about the consequences of our actions. We do know enough to know that this is risky business, that really what we need to do for successful aquaculture is to harness what we've learned in aquariums, to have contained cultivation.

There is real promise with creatures low on the food chain – they can be crowded, people do love to eat them, and they grow pretty fast. They eat all kinds of things. They could be fed plant material just as readily as they're now being fed fish protein pellets, and turn that plant material into good protein.

But, why make big mistakes, as we're about to do, I think, by carving out big chunks of the ocean and trying to raise carnivores? That's the kind of fish that most people seem to be attracted to trying out there in the open ocean.