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Landlocked fish farm dreams of salmon page 3

 Shift manager Daryl Jenkins sends tilapia into a frenzy after pouring food into one of the holding tanks at Blue Ridge Aquaculture Inc. in Martinsville. The firm is growing cobia at a farm in Saltville, and plans to expand into oysters, lobsters and more.
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Date published: 3/2/2008


The Bush administration has been pushing ocean-based farms, too, with federally funded pilot projects studying the feasibility of raising mussels and fish in offshore farms from New Hampshire and Puerto Rico to Hawaii.

no silver bullet

Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association, says either kind of farm can harm the environment when badly managed. "As a guy who's done both, I don't believe that either technology is the silver bullet to the environmental issues," he says.

Nor are net pen operators feeling threatened.

"It's kind of a simple equation: 75 percent of the earth is covered by oceans," Belle says. "I don't think that anybody's suggesting the emergence of land-based technology is going to stop development of ocean-based farming. The conditions for farming fish in the ocean are just too good, and there's a lot of space there."

There's also a lot of demand. The U.S. imported 457 million pounds of fresh and frozen salmon in 2007, or $1.4 billion worth, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.

Shifts in demographics and population will keep demand strong through 2020, says Howard M. Johnson, an Oregon-based seafood marketing and market research expert.

If Blue Ridge can duplicate its success with tilapia, he says, it can help fill a market need.

Per Heggelund, who raises Pacific salmon in a closed-containment system in Rochester, Wash., says there's another potential market niche: all-natural, eco-farmed salmon.

Heggelund's Domsea Farms began working with Whole Foods in 2000 to develop standards for salmon he raises entirely in freshwater. Stores in the Seattle area began selling it this month.


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