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First federal waters fish farm set for NOAA review

21 September 2020, at 9:22am

Plans to farm up to 5,000 tonnes of California yellowtail off the coast of San Diego have been submitted to NOAA this month.

Yellowtail are native to California
Yellowtail are native to California

The proposed Pacific Ocean AquaFarms (POA) project – a collaboration between Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and Pacific6 Enterprises – would be about four miles offshore of San Diego and would generate 5,000 tonnes of of sushi-grade yellowtail (Seriola dorsalis) each year. If approved, it would be the first offshore fish farm in US Pacific federal waters, which stretch from three to 200 nautical miles off the country’s coast.

Hubbs-SeaWorld submitted a federal permit application for the project on 9 September and NOAA is due to complete an environmental review of their proposal within the next two years, followed by construction and a grow-out cycle taking up to 22 months.

"We're talking about five years before people are enjoying farmed yellowtail off the coast of California," Don Kent, president of Hubbs-SeaWorld, told the Los Angeles Times.

Hubbs-Seaworld already operates a hatchery in Carlsbad and, in 2014, the organisation proposed opening a different project, Rose Canyon Fisheries, near San Diego, which never came to fruition.

John Molina, a founder of Pacific6, which has invested in other aquaculture operations, told the Los Angeles Times that Pacific Ocean AquaFarms could be a prototype for sustainable and profitable fish production.

"One of our goals is to demonstrate that this can be done in a way that investors get a fair return," he said.