The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday held a public hearing to consider final approval for Hawaii-based offshore aquaculture producer Kampachi Farms' demonstration fish farm in federal waters in the US Gulf of Mexico.
Known as the Velella Epsilon aquaculture project, the offshore demonstration farm is slated to raise a single batch, or cohort, of 20,000 kampachi (Seriola rivoliana).
On Aug. 30 the EPA announced its intent to issue a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the project, which would allow the discharge of industrial wastewater from a marine net-pen aquaculture facility located in federal waters off the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 45 miles southwest of Sarasota, Florida.
The project has drawn criticism from groups that include the Louisiana Shrimp Association as well as Friends of the Earth and Recirculating Farms Coalition, who object to offshore aquaculture in the United States.
The opponents are largely concerned about the environmental impacts of the offshore project, which has never been done before in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Considering all of the likely environmental impacts and the regulatory uncertainty surrounding offshore finfish aquaculture in the Gulf, we’re asking the EPA to take a hard look at whether this type of industrial aquaculture is appropriate for the Gulf Coast, and deny the permit,” said Justin Bloom, attorney and founder of Suncoast Waterkeeper.
Last September Neil Sims, co-founder and CEO of Kampachi Farms, told IntraFish the Florida farm would operate to the highest environmental standards and that offshore aquaculture will help Americans become less reliant on imported seafood.
"I think all public comment is helpful," Sims told IntraFish Tuesday ahead of the meeting. "It's helpful for us to understand the local community sentiments. We want to engage with the local community, and even have them fish around the pen, snorkel around, scuba dive. We want people to see offshore aquaculture is just fish in the ocean."
The demonstration project is similar to the two demonstration projects the company completed in Hawaii between 2012 and 2014, he said, which were both well-received.