(AP) – A Southern California entrepreneur already has a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provision permit to harvest a million pounds of mussels and oysters from an underwater shellfish farm nearly five miles offshore. The project, described as a milestone in aquaculture, now needs California Coastal Commission approval.
Open ocean cultivation, rather than shallow bays and estuaries, will produce higher growth rates, better meat yields and heavier production than shellfish farms close to shore, Philip Cruver said. “Our goal is to show this can be done and put a dent in the nation’s $10.4 billion seafood deficit,” said Cruver, 67.
Construction of a 100-acre pilot plot of hanging nets off Long Beach could begin next year with the first harvest of 500,000 Mediterranean mussels and 500,000 Pacific oysters, the Los Angeles Times reported on Monday.
Cruver hopes to expand his KZO Sea Farms mussels and oyster ranch to 1,000 acres.
KZO plans to grow oysters and mussels on nearly four dozen 500-foot lines spaced 100 feet apart and anchored to the ocean floor. Coast Guard-approved buoys with battery-powered lights would suspend the long lines 30 feet beneath the surface.
KZO has partnered with the University of Southern California Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies on Santa Catalina Island for monitoring environmental effects and conducting research on breeding techniques.
Institute geneticist Dennis Hedgecock calls Cruver’s proposal “a milestone in aquaculture – and about as green a way of producing protein for human consumption as one can imagine. That is because oysters and mussels filter water naturally as they feed on microscopic plankton.”
Michael Rubino, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s office of aquaculture, said Cruver’s project is consistent with the agency’s mission to create jobs, provide nutritional food and improve the marine environment by putting shellfish back in the water.
With the Army Corps of Engineers provisional permit already in hand, Cruver must now win over the coastal commission, which last week requested details on the anchors, flotation devices, ropes and nets the farm would use. Cruver must also explain how they would be installed and how the shellfish would be harvested.
The potential effect on fisheries and habitat resulting from marine debris, ship strikes and entanglement of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles concerns the commission. But commission environmental scientist Cassidy Teufel said the project design appeared flexible enough to adapt to contingencies.
The commission is expected to make a final decision later this year.