The first offshore fish farm off from New England’s coast has been proposed by a New Hampshire group called Blue Water Fisheries in conjunction with Innovasea Systems, Inc.

The farm would be composed of about 40 submersible fish pens that would be moored roughly seven and a half miles off the coast of Newburyport, Mass. 

Blue Water Fisheries hopes to grow millions of pounds of salmon and steelhead trout on the farm, as well as lumpfish for a research study. However, the group will have to go through many approvals with NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before it is a set-in-stone project.

The farm will acquire all-female trout eggs from Trout Lodge and Riverance hatcheries of Rochester, Wash. The eggs are deemed as disease-free and will be hatched in the farm’s freshwater hatchery for up to eight months before being acclimated to saltwater and then be transferred into the offshore SeaStations. 

According to the project plan, the fish will grow for about a year within the submersible pens to then harvested and processed for sale. Similarly, to the approach for trout, a small number of lumpfish will be hatched and raised in the same hatchery through a project for the University of New Hampshire.

According the to Blue Water Fisheries project summary, UNH will study the use of the lumpfish as a natural way to maintain healthier ocean fish stocks.

With many fisheries facing closures, fish farms could make up for the population decreases of these species, however the concern for disease within fish farms causes concern for critics and consumers alike.

The benefit of running a farm offshore is the lesser chance of conflicting with other marine resource users, but the concern that fishermen have for offshore pens continues.

However, researchers believe that offshore waters will provide a more environmentally friendly source of fish farming for saltwater species.

(Learn more information about the Innovasea’s SeaStations.)

Hawaii has the first implemented offshore fish farm in the U.S. Though supporters of the farm see it as a new form of sustainable fishing, environmental groups pose concerns on pollution and non-native species being introduced to waters with already native fish.

Blue Water Fisheries have not commented beyond their project summary on further plans for the farm.

However, New England Fishery Management Council announced on April 19 that they finalized a framework for the Atlantic Salmon Fishery Management Plan. This will provide industry members who are granted the authorization from NOAA Fisheries to possess farm-raised Atlantic salmon in federal waters.

This action from the council arose from Blue Water Fisheries proposed plan for the fish farm in federal waters. This will establish a clear path for future offshore aquaculture projects. 

This adjusts the management measures that prohibit the possession and harvest of wild Atlantic salmon, and will allow the possession of farm-raised salmon. 

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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