Scientists See Aquaculture in America's Future


"We must plant the sea and herd its animals," the late ocean researcher Jacques Cousteau said more than 40 years ago, "using the sea as farmers instead of hunters."

Scientists who share the vision of thriving fish farms off the California coast met at workshops this year and last sponsored by the NOAA Sea Grant program.

NOAA, the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this year opened federal waters on the U.S. Gulf Coast to aquaculture, and a private commercial venture hopes to build a massive fish farm off San Diego on the Pacific Coast.

Ocean farms must be situated carefully, based on ocean currents, depth and other conditions, and scientists must watch for potential pollutants and disease, said Jerry Schubel, president and CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. Schubel is one of the scientists advocating for aquaculture in federal waters off California. He says fish farmers must only breed native species to maintain the balance of the region's ecology.

Some environmentalists are worried about the impact, and Schubel says that fish farming has been done badly in some places where pollutants have entered the food chain.

"We should start with a couple of farms that are located in the right spots, monitor them very carefully, set high standards, and that would relieve some of the concern that many in the public have," he said.