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Proposed offshore almaco jack farm (yellowtail) worries environmentalists (video)

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019, 03:00 (GMT + 9)

A Hawaiian-based company is planning an offshore finfish farm in federal waters off the coast of Southwest Florida.

Kampachi Farms has proposed a pilot-scale marine aquaculture facility named Velella Epsilon to be built in the Gulf of Mexico 45 miles south of Sarasota.

"I think there is a pressing global need to expand food production," said Neil Sims, co-founder of Kampachi Farms. "A United Nations high level panel on oceans said one of the five key steps to address the climate crisis is to start to shift from terrestrial agriculture to marine agriculture."

The proposed farm will raise 88,000 pounds of almaco jack fish (Seriola rivoliana) each year, the same amount caught by commercial fishers in Florida each year. Sims said the Velella Epsilon project will consist of a demonstration pen where the farmed fish will be held. The pen will measure 20 feet deep and 50 feet across. It is able to be submerged about 7 meters, or 20 feet.

"We would hope that if we were to get permit by February or March next year, we will have fish in the water by July or August," Sims said. "It takes a lot of prep and it might be six months after permits."

Velella Gamma test used the same net pen, species and number of fish, but included a single-point mooring located in 6,000 ft deep water, some 6 nautical miles offshore of the Kona Coast

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a draft environmental assessment for the project.

"On August 30, 2019, EPA Region 4 provided the public a 30-day comment period for a draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the Kampachi Farms," EPA spokeswoman Dawn Harris Young wrote in an email. "During the 30-day public comment period, EPA received a significant number of comments. The EPA is currently reviewing the comments received and is evaluating the need for a public hearing and potential extension of the public comment period."

YouTube video:The Velella Mariculture Research Project

Environmental groups have said that the public comment period was not long enough and hope that the EPA opens a public hearing.

"We're watchdogging this closely," said Hallie Templeton, the senior oceans campaigner for the advocacy group Friends of the Earth. "We have urged the EPA to hold public input; we’ll see what happens. There has been written comment, but we have not heard anything out of the agency."

Templeton said the farm poses a risk to the environment through the discharge of excess nutrients into the Gulf and other concerns.

"Net pens are free flowing exchange, and anything in a net pen can just leech into surrounding waterway," she said. "Fish waste and excess fish feed go into existing environment. There's no way that could be a win, it could not be beneficial. They say could be diluted, but dilution is not solution to the pollution."

Kampachi Farms yellowtail, or "Kampachi", is a delicious, premium sashimi-grade marine fish, responsibly raised in the open ocean ((Kampachi Farms LLC)

Sims said there has been extensive monitoring around Kampachi's other offshore pens that show no impact on water quality between up current and down current.

Author: Karl Schneider, Naples Daily News (Read the entire article here



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