The U.S. government has paved the way for the first commercial shellfish farm to set up shop in federal waters, and marine conservationists didn’t even flinch.
Oysters, mussels and other shellfish, traditionally grown on farms huddled near the shore, tend to be less offensive to ocean-minded consumers than, say, salmon. Moving the farms offshore, and out of sight, is even better.
The pioneering farm will be anchored nine miles off Long Beach, Calif., as designated by a provisional aquaculture permit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted to KZO Sea Farms on June 17. (The corps has sole jurisdiction for granting aquaculture permits in U.S. federal waters, defined in most states as the region between three and 200 miles from shore.)
For years the U.S. has been vowing to decrease the country’s $10 billion seafood trade deficit, but space near the coast is crowded, polluted, and highly controversial.
“For the U.S. to make a meaningful reduction in shellfish imports, it will have to farm offshore,” KZO Sea Farms president Phil Cruver said in a Q&A with Seafood Source.
Last year a fish farm in Hawaii became the first U.S. enterprise to be granted permission to raise finfish in federal waters (in their case, a local species of yellowtail). KZO Sea Farms will be the first to raise shellfish.
The water at the farm site is about 145 feet deep—plenty deep to submerge the shellfish cultivation gear out of the way of commercial and recreational boating. The gear will be suspended from about four dozen 500-foot ropes spaced about 100 feet apart.
Cruver predicts that warmer water temperatures and an abundance of upwelling phytoplankton at the farm site mean his shellfish—Pacific oysters and Mediterranean mussels—will reach harvest size in less than a year.
Photo: Pacific oysters, on rock salt with lime. (Guido via Wikimedia Commons)