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Mar 18, 2015 10:37 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Fish Farm Idea Floated For Ocean Off South Fork

Mar 18, 2015 11:26 AM

As striped bass numbers on the East Coast continue to decline, and more stringent restrictions are placed on their harvest by fishermen, an East Quogue entrepreneur has presented state officials with a proposal for an oceanic fish farm in which striped bass, and other species, would be raised in large floating cages off the South Fork.

Manna Fish Farms Inc., the brainchild of East Quogue attorney Donna Lanzetta, has pitched a state business incubator the idea of mooring as many as two dozen mesh-enclosed galvanized steel geodesic pods in the Atlantic Ocean, about three miles off the coast, where hundreds of thousands of striped bass could be raised and sold to seafood purveyors without any depletion of the wild population.

Ms. Lanzetta, who is the president of the East Quogue Chamber of Commerce, has billed the idea as an environmentally sustainable form of seafood production. The fish in the cages would be the brood of wild fish, but would not come from the wild population and would be fed with an organic food mixture that, she notes, is still being conceived.

“It would be a sustainable seafood source of the type the world is going to need going into the future,” Ms. Lanzetta said this week. “We want to explore new components [to feed the caged fish], like algae, organic proteins, like mushrooms. We want a non-genetically modified, organic, sustainable produced product.”

The fish would be placed in the cages as small adults and allowed to grow, protected from wild and human predators, until they reach a size suitable for use as seafood. The cages would remain in the water year-round.

Fish farms based in the open ocean have been billed as a more environmentally sensitive option to traditional fish farms near the shore or on land, which have been blamed for increasing water pollution and spreading diseases to wild fish. The first open ocean fish farm in the United States opened last year off the coast of Hawaii.

“Ocean cages, at least from the research conducted, are much lower impact than coastal cages,” said Dr. Konstantine Rountos, a marine ecologist at Stony Brook University who has worked on the Manna Fish Farm plans with Ms. Lanzetta. “You are in increased depths, so any [waste] effluent from the fish gets dispersed in a much larger volume of water. Nutrients are assimilated and absorbed into the food web, rather than just settling onto the bottom.”

Species grown in open ocean cages, however, will likely require a more robust diet of protein and Dr. Rountos said it is important to the sustainability principle to ensure that there is not a net reduction to the marine environment caused by the creation of the special food for the farmed fish.

At the outset, Manna Fish Farm would get its first generation of juvenile striped bass from Multi-Aquaculture, a land-based fish farm in Amagansett, Ms. Lanzetta said. But, ultimately, the program would likely rely on its own spawning of baby striped bass.

The geodesic cages, known as “Aquapods,” are more than 200 feet across, and could each hold between 14,000 and 28,000 fish, depending on what size they are grown to. “In Hawaii, the pods have actually added life to the ocean,” Ms. Lanzetta said. “They act like a floating coral reef—they become their own little ecosystem.”

The “food” for the fish would be held in a buoy attached to the cage and released automatically at a predetermined rate to fatten the fish.

The logistics and economics of the project pose substantial hurdles. The cages themselves cost some $250,000 each. They have to be moored in about 120 feet of water and secured so they sit about 60 feet below the surface. The food, whatever its ultimate composition, has to be produced and supplied to the fish.

The project is in its earliest phase of proposal, but Ms. Lanzetta hopes that with the blessing of state and federal regulators, tax benefits from business incubator Start Up New York, and a substantial base of private funding that she says is already in place, the first fish pods of Manna Fish Farm could be in the Atlantic by the summer of 2016.

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Interesting idea, but the devil is in the details. The area in Kona Hawaii where the Kona Kempachi Company has operated for the past 8 years is quite different from our situation here. Firstly the water is significantly deeper ( 250 feet) with a strong , consistent current that disperses waste. Additionally, the sea conditions in Kona are benign for the most part compared to the North Atlantic , an important difference since the pens are tended daily. Our wonderful , all powerful DEC has to sign ...more
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 20, 15 8:08 AM
The concept has been around for some time. Glad to see someone is trying to move it into production. It will be interesting to see how well it works and if it can be a viable business model.
By bird (829), Southampton on Mar 20, 15 12:14 PM
Marlinspike, I hear you loud and clear, to an extent. Demand exceeds wild catch so the difference needs to be made up somewhere. Currently that difference is made up predominantly by imports of questionable quality and origin. If we can switch that to domestic production of responsible aquaculture all the better.

"Ban the use of untraceable monikers on this and all comment sites, it enables maliciousness"
By Barley Dunne (21), Southampton on Mar 20, 15 3:48 PM
And this project would be local...so your point again? Pretty convenient that you could do a quick search and find out a little about me while you hide behind your nickname. Hence my preference to ban untraceable names on forums like this, reveal yourself.
By Barley Dunne (21), Southampton on Mar 21, 15 8:50 AM
I never said anything about not buying local fish sir. I agree with you 100% there, no tilapia for me thanks.
By Barley Dunne (21), Southampton on Mar 21, 15 10:47 AM
This is just wrong on so many level sthat I don't know where to begin.

Let's start with the simple fact that striped bass are carnivores... not vegetarians it takes far more weight of marine life to feed them than the weight realized st harvest , three miles is not that far offshore and that keeping enough product concentrated in those pens to make this economically feasible can easily lead to disease in both the pens and in the wild stock.... unless of course you add antibiotics to the ...more
By Split Rock (68), North Haven on Mar 20, 15 5:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Agreed on your point about feeding carnivores but the article does mention seeking alternative feeding methods. Feed conversion ratio (FCR) should always be considered when buying any fed food, terrestrial and aquatic.
By Barley Dunne (21), Southampton on Mar 21, 15 9:03 AM
..... And the chances of Manna getting this by both the NYSDEC and NOAA by next year are slim to none. You're looking at years and years of hearings. The 2016 start date sounds like smoke and mirrors for investors.
By Split Rock (68), North Haven on Mar 20, 15 6:01 PM
.... And a quick look at Ms. Lanzetta's linkedin page indicates that she has quite a bit of experience as a lawyer, real estate broker/developer, business promoter... even a stint as an administrative law judge for the NYC Parking Violations Bureau... but absolutely no bonafides or practical experience as regards either marine biology or aquaculture.
By Split Rock (68), North Haven on Mar 20, 15 6:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Based on the large amount of money involved in getting this thing going I'm sure the investors will do their due diligence and take their chances only if they see it being a viable venture.
By bird (829), Southampton on Mar 21, 15 9:30 AM
what's the problem with this project again? we don't want to increase a population of fish?
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Mar 21, 15 10:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
The sea buoy broke loose during a nor'easter, imagine what would happen to these pens in a real storm. Modeling this project on the one off Kona is a mistake.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 22, 15 9:10 AM
You can already buy farm raised Striped Bass at places like Citarella's for $9 a pound instead of double that for wild caught. The problem will always be unscrupulous fishermen that pull and keep shorts, exceed their limit, greed/money, human population increase.... You can't fix that with another farm. Sacrifice and conservation so perhaps the fish population can rebuild.
By lirider (288), Westhampton Beach on Mar 24, 15 1:09 PM
The crap sold as farmed raised striped bass is a hybrid and is nothing like wild bass at all. The striper is one of the most highly regulated species of fish in our local waters. your statement is ignorant in the extreme.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 24, 15 3:35 PM
I have access to Google too and know that farm raised Striped Bass is a hybrid. That wasn't my point. My point is that even if you believe it is the most highly regulated species in our waters there is a decline. You're telling me the 100 of guys surf casting on the beach don't pull a short once in awhile or throw an extra one in the truck when the wife wants fish for dinner? The guys sitting on Shinnecock Inlet from out of town are leaving without a fish after driving from up the island? The ...more
By lirider (288), Westhampton Beach on Mar 25, 15 9:07 AM
1 member liked this comment
How does any of your diatribe relate to the SALE of wild caught , sustainably harvested bass? Your reluctance to utilize a local product in favor of pen raised garbage does nothing to 'help' the bass population. I stand by my prior statement
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 25, 15 5:21 PM
As I stated, I don't favor farm raised fish. I wish there were plenty of Bass for everyone to eat, catch, sell. I consider farm rasied an alternative to a depleted natural stock. My point again is that the wild caught Bass isn't sustainable at the going rate. Something is wrong. You are obviously a commercial or recreational fisherman who doesn't like to be told what to do. Maybe you are responsible and respectful with what you take from the wild, it's the other half that aren't and that's ...more
By lirider (288), Westhampton Beach on Mar 26, 15 9:08 PM
You guys are going on and on comparing pen raise fish to ocean raised, albeit contained, fish. It's not even clear if the proposal would utilize the hybrids the farms in the desert use or a pure striped bass strain but a few things are clear. There is an unmet demand for striped bass because the natural harvest cannot keep up with the demand. Dung eating fish, farm raised out west, are quite different from naturally raised and caught fish.

Projects such as this may be a reasonable ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Mar 26, 15 10:43 PM
LIRIDER: The population of bass is down, down from historical highs and is not " a problem".The recreational harvest in NY is 6X that of the commercial and both have taken a reduction for the upcoming season. Being a commercial fisherman or a recreational fisherman is not a crime, and no ,no one who is educated about the issue likes to be told what to do by someone who is not.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 27, 15 6:22 AM