Offshore mariculture: an opportunity for Caribbean fish farming?

Offshore mariculture: an opportunity for Caribbean fish farming?
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Offshore mariculture could present an opportunity for fish farming in the Caribbean, potentially a more efficient method of fish production.

Ocean-based Caribbean fish farming operations done far from the shore, called offshore mariculture, are an alternative to land-based and coastal aquaculture. A team led by researchers at UC Santa Barbara‘s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and the Marine Science Institute (MSI) see it as an opportunity for a different method of seafood production in locations such as the Caribbean where the environmental impacts are high and space is limited.

Plenty more fish in the sea?

The co-author Sarah Lester, an assistant professor at Florida State University who completed her PhD at UC Santa Barbara, said: “In the Caribbean, like we see globally, seafood demand is increasing while many wild fisheries have been overfished.”

She added: “Currently many Caribbean countries import large amounts of seafood — aquaculture offers a promising avenue for economic development and tasty, sustainable local seafood production.”

Caribbean fish farming

Lennon Thomas, the study’s lead author, explained: “The Caribbean has a large potential for off-shore mariculture. And meeting this potential can be accomplished by developing mariculture in a relatively small amount of ocean space.”

Even with conservative estimates, the group say that Caribbean fish farming could produce over 34 million metric tons of seafood per year.

This potential yield from offshore mariculture is more than twice the region’s current seafood production.

The barriers to offshore mariculture in the Caribbean

One of the main barriers to achieving this, according to the researchers, is that people distrust aquaculture, believing it is environmentally unsustainable. The researchers believe this is because currently done on land or near the shore, which can cause negative impacts on surrounding ecosystems. Thomas commented: “Offshore mariculture overcomes many of the shortcomings and potential negative impacts that people often associate with coastal or inland aquaculture.”

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