NEWPORT, Ore. – Should the Pacific Northwest take advantage of its clean, cold ocean water and its links to Pacific Rim countries by developing an offshore aquaculture program?
That is the key question participants in a two-day workshop will discuss Sept. 9-10 at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. The event, “Offshore Aquaculture in the Pacific Northwest,” is sponsored by numerous federal and state agencies, as well as private foundations.
Information about the program, and registration details, are available online at: http://oregonstate.edu/conferences/aquaculture2008/.
With the Earth’s population projected to increase by another 50 percent during the next 30-40 years, there is a significant need for additional sources of food. Most resource managers say wild fish harvests cannot sustain future global demands for seafood; however, advocates for offshore aquaculture propose that this new form of culturing fish and shellfish might help meet this need.
Opponents say the potential environmental risks of offshore aquaculture in the Pacific Northwest outweigh possible economic and social benefits.
“It should be a lively discussion,” said Chris Langdon, an OSU fisheries professor and director of the Molluscan Broodstock Program at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, who is coordinating the forum. “The United States increasingly is importing its seafood because our capture fisheries are at or above sustainable limits. Do we attempt to continue to import most of our seafood, or do we try to produce it in this country, and specifically within this region?
“There also is a question about whether seafood will even be available for importation at affordable prices because of increasing demand from China and India and other developing countries, as well as the increasing costs of transportation,” Langdon added.
Langdon said the forum is designed to be informational and will explore the potential downsides as well as the rewards of offshore aquaculture in the Northwest region. Developing offshore aquaculture will be challenging because of the rugged ocean conditions, he pointed out, but new technologies and materials could make a difference.
“There also may be opportunities to link with wave energy installations and to utilize our innovative fishing industries to provide support services,” Langdon said. “One area of discussion will no doubt focus on the economics of offshore aquaculture. Should the Northwest fishing industry look at aquaculture as an unwelcome competitor, or as an alternative way to pursue a livelihood?”
Oregon’s ocean, with its cold water and high nutrient productivity, could culture a variety of species, including Pacific cod, ling cod and black cod (or sablefish), as well as shellfish such as mussels and scallops, Langdon said.
Key speakers at the forum include:
• Richard Langan, director of the Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center at the University of New Hampshire, who will speak on “Realizing the Vision for Open Ocean Aquaculture.”
• Michael Rubino, manager of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aquaculture Program, “The Federal Perspective: NOAA’s Role in Developing U.S. Marine Aquaculture.”
• Devin Bartley, state aquaculture coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Game, “Offshore Aquaculture – the California Perspective.”
• John Forster, Forster Consulting, Inc., “Aquaculture Industry Perspectives.”
• A panel on “Fishing Industry Perspectives” that will include presentations by commercial West Coast fishermen. Kaety Hildenbrand of Oregon Sea Grant will be moderator.
• Clifford A. Goudey, director of the Offshore Aquaculture Engineering Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Technical and Scientific Issues.”
• Michael Rust, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, “Biological and Husbandry Issues.”
• Rebecca Goldburg, senior scientist with Environmental Defense, “Environmental Issues.”
• John “Randy” Cates, Cates International Inc., “Business Case Study.”
• James Anderson, environmental and natural resource economics professor at the University of Rhode Island, and Gil Sylvia, an OSU professor of marine resource economics, “Economic Opportunities and Strategies for Developing Offshore Aquaculture in the Pacific Northwest.”