UNH studies aquaculture future

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
26 March 2007, at 1:00am

DURHAM - Salmon used to be a delicacy, an expensive fish eaten only on special occasions.

Then salmon farms came along and revolutionized the industry, growing the fish by the thousands and turning what was once a luxury into a dinner staple with prices the average family could easily afford.

"Now salmon is one of the cheaper fish you can buy," says Rich Langan, director of the University of New Hampshire's Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center.

"It's remarkable not only the cost but how many more people are eating salmon than used to." As a former fish market owner, Langan witnessed first hand salmon's evolution in price and popularity. Something similar happened with shrimp, too, he said.

NH fish farm

With new advances in offshore fish faming, there is now the possibility many other fish can be grown cheaply in waters off New Hampshire in coming years, Langan said. Already, fish farms in Hawaii and Puerto Rico have found success and the possibility for similar ventures in New England is great.

"Certainly the potential is large," Langan said. "Certainly the potential is in the many millions of dollars if not approaching what we already produce in inshore aquaculture." Fish farming near the shore and on land is already a $150 million industry, Langan said. "The potential for offshore is far greater than that," he said.

But there are many obstacles to offshore fish farming that must be overcome first.

With the cages positioned miles offshore, just feeding the fish and making sure everything stays in place through ocean currents is a major task. There are also cost issues.

"The cons are right now it's significantly more expensive plus it's more dangerous for the operators," Langan said.

The Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center is helping to develop new technologies to make offshore fish farming profitable. The center, which gets its funding from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, is studying everything from mooring systems for the cages, to automated feeders, husbandry procedures and new types of fish food to help realize offshore fish farming's potential.

"A fish farming company is looking for turnkey systems," Langan said.

Source: UnionLeader.com