After years of waiting, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally issued a permit for Velella's Epsilon offshore aquaculture demonstration project in the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit was approved in October 2020 but has only just been issued, Ocean Era CEO Neil Sims, the man behind the project, told IntraFish.

The Velella Epsilon offshore demonstration farm is a netpen aquaculture facility set to be located 40 miles offshore of Sarasota, Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico and is slated to raise a single batch, or cohort, of 20,000 kampachi (Seriola rivoliana).

This project is anticipated to be the first time that cultured fish are grown through to harvest size in Gulf waters.

“It has been over four-and-a-half years since we first began the permitting for this project, and the staff in EPA and other federal agencies have been incredibly persistent, thorough and unswervingly objective in their analyses, throughout the process," he said.

However, he added that, as a demonstration project, it has already shown the inefficiency of the federal permitting process.

“This one permit is for a single batch of no more than 20,000 fish in one small net pen,” Sims said.

“That’s about one-tenth the size of a commercial-scale netpen, and perhaps only one percent the scale of a full commercial farm. Permitting for research, demonstration and development projects should not be this hard.”

Ocean Era -- formerly Kampachi Farms -- is based in Kona, Hawaii. Dennis Peters, the leader of the project, is based in Florida.