Aquaculture Magazine

February / March 2014

Offshore Aquaculture

By Neil Anthony Sims

I care not what we call it. Open ocean aquaculture… offshore mariculture… these terms are often conflated and confounded, interchanged and intertwined.

Some of us might care deeply about where we draw the lines. Colleagues at esteemed international organizations can, and do, spend a lot of time debating and defining what we mean when we say “open ocean”, or “offshore”, or “aquaculture” or “mariculture”. There have been entire sessions at “Offshore Mariculture” conferences (which would seem to be somewhat self-defining) spent pondering how many miles of fetch, or how far from shore, or how deep the water. It starts to feel more like an accounting exercise, and it doesn’t move the discussion forward one iota, that I can see.

I would rather that we not get caught up in definitions, delineations and distinctions. I would rather that we think of “aquaculture way out there in the distant blue” in the same manner that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously opined on pornography – that “I know it when I see it”. (And perhaps, in a similar vein, the primary criterion is how flagrantly exposed you are?).

In these modest contributions to this magazine, I would like to occasionally highlight areas of interest, advancements in culture systems, regulatory issues and other industry developments in exposed, open water aquaculture. These musings will be phyla agnostic – algae, shellfish, finfish… all are grist for this mill. I am interested in discussing how we, as an industry, and as a planet, can now begin to expand aquaculture production into deeper water, further offshore. In these columns, I want to share with you these interests, and my introspections.

We readers of this magazine all know why we need to do this – a planet of 7 billion increasingly affluent and increasingly health-conscious consumers are not going to settle just for carp carpaccio or catfish sushi. If we do not find ways to responsibly and sustainably scale up production of great-tasting, healthful marine seafood, then there will be an increasing economic incentive to hunt down the last wild fish in the sea. Do I exaggerate? Pew’s assessment is that Pacific bluefin tuna stocks are presently 3.6% of their original biomass. Totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi, a type of drum fish from the Sea of Cortez) was pushed onto the CITES Redlist by demand for their swim bladders in Chinese medicine. And we have ample terrestrial analogies: elephants; rhinos; passenger pigeons. We will eat our way through whatever wild game that Gaia offers (or if she does not offer, then whatever we choose to take), unless and until we can find ways to culture the food we love. As we love seafood- a lot, so must we learn to culture a lot of it.

So, these occasional pieces will consider how we do this in the other 70% of our planet. And how we might do more of it, and do it better, in the future. I am looking forward to hearing from you, and sharing with you.

Onwards! And aloha.

Neil Anthony  Sims

Neil Anthony Sims

Neil Anthony Sims is co-Founder and CEO of Kampachi Farms, LLC, based in Kona, Hawaii, and in La Paz, Mexico. Over the past two decades, Sims has led teams that have accomplished a number of breakthrough developments in pearl oyster culture, offshore aquaculture legislation and regulation, marine fish hatchery technology, open ocean mariculture systems, and most recently, untethered open ocean ‘drifter pens’: the Velella project.

Neil is also the founding President of the Ocean Stewards Institute, and sits on the Steering Committee for the Seriola-Cobia Aquaculture Dialogue (SCAD) and the Technical Advisory Group for the WWF-sponsored Aquaculture Stewardship Council. 

Sims resides in Kona, Hawaii.

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