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Offshore fish farm facing protests at Mote hearing

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Numerous groups and individuals are wary of a proposed fish farm that will be supplied by hatchlings from Mote Marine due to what they fear are environmental and red tide implications.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting a public hearing on the proposal at Mote Marine on City Island this coming Tuesday, Jan. 28 from 5:30 – 9:30 p.m.

The hearing is a regulatory hurdle that follows after the EPA issued a draft permit to allow Kampachi Farms of Hawaii to create a fish farm operation in which 20,000 Almaco Jack fish would be raised in a net pen less than 50 miles southwest of Sarasota.

The fish would be hatched onshore at Mote’s Aquaculture Research Park and transferred when they reach fingerling size to the offshore fish farm as part of an ongoing business relationship between Kampachi Farms and Mote Marine.

Because the facility is more than three miles offshore, it falls under Federal, instead of State, regulation. Numerous groups are concerned about the concentration of fish excrement as well as the use of antibiotics and pesticides.

Several groups including Friends of the Earth, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and many others have opposed the project and worry that although the single facility would likely not prove environmentally detrimental, the precedent is dangerous.

The proposal is a pilot project and deviates from the common practice of fish farming onshore where the discharge of waste is more easily regulated. Additionally, opponents fear the possible spread of disease to native fish populations.

In the draft permit that was issued, the facility will employ a floating cage in waters at a depth of 130 feet.

Other countries, including Canada and Denmark, have initiated actions to move away from net-pen fish farming to land-based containment systems.

Mote Marine is directly involved in red tide research and has received State funding to combat the issue. Part of the concern is that excrement and nutrient runoff as well as nutrient feeding, directly exacerbates red tide and has the above groups concerned.

One Longboat Key visitor, Jane Smith, said, “I am dismayed and saddened that Mote Marine is even considering industrial ocean fish farming, which increases the development of red tide.”

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