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Yellowtail Wonder - Sustainable Farming with Taste

by Ellen Hardy
21 April 2008, at 1:00am

HAWAII - There is a toxin-free, sustainable, farmed fish, and it's damn tasty, writes Jeffrey M. O'Brien. His article on aquaculture company Kona Blue Water Farms', shows Kona Kampachi has a future that's in balance with consumer demand and the environment.

Neil Sims is standing on the deck of a 35-foot feed boat off the coast of Kona, Hawaii, staring at a dorsal fin slicing through the calm morning sea below. For the past hour we've been snorkeling around the submersible cages owned by Kona Blue Water Farms, which house nearly half a million Kona Kampachi - a species of yellowtail .

According to the in CNN's Fortune Magazine report, Sims is trying to single-handedly tackle the plight of the commercial fishing industry. Our oceans are being drained of food. Doctors tell us to eat more fish; it's good for the brain and good for the heart. We yearn for our weekly sushi fix. And increasingly so do our friends in China, India, and elsewhere in the developing world. To meet this growing appetite, commercial fishermen are scooping up everything that's edible (and a lot of what's not). Couple that trend with the effects of global warming, and the situation has become so dire that some scientists think seafood stocks will totally collapse by 2048.

Aquaculture would seem the answer, but it has its own problems. Farmed fish- especially carnivorous finfish like salmon - tend to lack the flavor of their wild counterparts, can be lower in nutrients, and are often dyed to appear edible. The farms themselves, being monocultures, can be havens for disease, so they are sometimes infused with prophylactic antibiotics. Those chemicals and the concentration of feces make poorly monitored shoreline farms devastating to the environment.

Ravaged marine life

Sims has a better way. He wants to satiate our appetites without poisoning us or the environment. "We would have never been able to sustain our population if we had remained a hunter-gatherer society on land. And I'm not sure what makes people think we can remain that way in the ocean," says the 49-year-old marine biologist.

A former fisheries researcher in the Cook Islands, Sims was disgusted by how locals ravaged marine life there. But the scene also inspired his idea for a new (patents pending) style of deepwater fish farming. "We're finding new ways not just to grow more fish - we're trying to grow more fish better," he says.

View the CNN Fortune story by clicking here.

Ellen Hardy