Published on Thursday, January 12, 2023

An industrial-scale fish farm could locate off Pensacola Beach

An industrial-scale fish farm could locate off Pensacola Beach 

For those who live along and love our northwest Florida beaches, there is a new threat to our emerald waters. A New York company has applied for permits to setup an industrial-scale fish farm offshore from Pensacola Beach that would raise over 5 million pounds of fish annually. Fish farms similar to this one have caused pollution and harm to wild fish in many areas around the world.  

The Gulf of Mexico is already struggling, from dead zones and algae blooms to industrial pollution and oil and gas drilling. The fish waste from large fish farms would add nitrogen and phosphorus that could further fuel harmful algal blooms like red tide, while also causing the  loss of wild forage fish such as menhaden that would be caught and processed into food to feed the farmed fish. These forage fish are needed to support popular recreational fish sought by fishermen, such as redfish and seatrout. 

This particular farm is proposed for an area 20 miles offshore and inside the core habitat for the Rice’s whale, one of the most endangered animals on the planet with only 30 – 50 remaining whales. Entanglement in fishing gear is a leading cause of mortality for many whale species, and the cages and mooring lines for the proposed farm represent a threat to a species where the death of even a single individual would be catastrophic. There are also questions about allowing our shared common resources--in this case the Gulf of Mexico--to be used for a private for-profit operation that could put marine life at risk.

These are the types of concerns that have led beachfront communities in other areas of FL to stand against offshore fish farms. With another fish farm proposed for 45 miles offshore from Sarasota, residents there came together in opposition. The Siesta Key Condo Council, Sarasota City Commission, and other groups are formally opposed, and the proposed fish farm is being challenged in court. 

These proposed industrial-scale fish farms stand in contrast to well-established local methods for producing seafood sustainably, including many examples of shellfish farming in coastal waters, such as the oyster farms now in Escambia and East Bays. There are also recirculating pond and tank systems on land that can be used to raise fish, shrimp and other seafood and do not discharge pollutants from fish waste or excess food into waterways. 

If you have thoughts or comments on this issue I would love to hear them, so feel free to call or email me. Thank you!

For a healthy Gulf,

Christian Wagley

Healthy Gulf

Pensacola, FL

 christian@healthygulf.org   (850) 687-9968

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