1st ocean fish farm proposed for East Coast off New England

Apr 7, 2023, 5:03 AM

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire group wants to be the first to bring offshore fish farming to the waters off New England by raising salmon and trout in open-ocean pens miles from land, but critics fear the plan could harm the environment.

The vast majority of U.S. aquaculture, the practice of raising and harvesting fish in controlled settings, takes place in coastal waters or on land, in tanks and ponds. But New Hampshire-based Blue Water Fisheries wants to place 40 submersible fish pens in water about 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) off Newburyport, Massachusetts, on two sites that total nearly a square mile, according to federal documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

The farm would grow millions of pounds of Atlantic salmon and steelhead trout, two popular seafood species, documents state. The proposal needs a battery of approvals, and would be the first of its kind off the East Coast.

Hawaii was the first U.S. state to allow operation of commercial open ocean aquaculture. Supporters of the farms tout them as a new method of sustainable fish farming, but environmental groups have voiced concerns about pollution and the possibility of projects releasing non-native species. Other offshore fish farming projects have been proposed for the waters off California and Florida.

The New England company hasn’t said much about its plans. Scott Flood, who is listed as a representative for Blue Water Fisheries on documents, declined to comment on the project. Other representatives for the company did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working with Blue Water Fisheries and other federal agencies on the regulatory and approvals process, said Allison Ferreira, a spokesperson for the agency. The company needs authorizations from NOAA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among other approvals.

A key step in the approvals process for Blue Water Fisheries is the preparation of an environmental impact statement, Ferreria said. There is not yet a timeline for that process, she said.

The aquaculture project would include pens submerged about 15 meters (49 feet) below the surface in depths of about 80 meters (262 feet), federal documents state. The project would yield “up to 25.6 million pounds of a combination of steelhead trout and Atlantic salmon annually,” the documents state. The company’s year-round operations would take place out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The project also includes a proposal to aquaculture lumpfish, a species of fish that can be used to control parasites.

Aquaculture of Atlantic salmon in ocean pens already takes place in New England, as fish farming giant Cooke Aquaculture cultures the fish off Maine. However, those operations are located in coastal areas.

Any project involving the offshore culture of Atlantic salmon is likely to get the attention of conservation groups, as the salmon are listed under the Endangered Species Act in the U.S. Conservation groups have long made the case that farming salmon in the marine environment is bad for wild salmon, in part because the farmed fish can escape and jeopardize wild salmon by hybridizing with them and competing with them for food. They’ve also sounded alarms about the spread of parasites and the transfer of diseases.

Conservation groups have also argued the fish farms are bad for the environment because of pollution in the form of the antibiotics and pesticides often used on the farms.

Fish farming also has its supporters, who say the aquaculture of popular seafood species helps to take fishing pressure off wild fish stocks.

The New Hampshire group’s project raises potential alarms about possible fish escapes, said John Burrows, executive director for U.S. operations with the Atlantic Salmon Federation, a conservation organization. Using net pens far from the shoreside operations “significantly raises the likelihood of storm damage or predators causing escapes that may go undetected for several days,” Burrows said.

Don’t Cage Our Oceans, a national group that opposes offshore fish farming, is also monitoring the project, said Andrianna Natsoulas, the coalition’s campaign director.

“This is highly problematic, especially at the massive scale of this proposed operation once fully built-out,” Burrows said.

United States News

Associated Press

Pursuit of Milwaukee carjacking suspects ends with police shooting 2 teens in stolen vehicle

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A police pursuit of carjacking suspects in Milwaukee ended Thursday with police firing into the vehicle and injuring two teens, one of whom was pregnant and lost her baby, Milwaukee police said. Officers tried to stop the stolen vehicle just before 2:30 p.m. on Interstate 43 north of Milwaukee. The pursuit ended […]

57 minutes ago

Associated Press

2 crop dusting airplanes collided in southern Idaho, killing 1 pilot and severely injuring the other

ARCO, Idaho (AP) — Two crop dusting airplanes collided near an airport in southern Idaho on Thursday and crashed to the ground, killing one of the pilots and leaving the other with life-threatening injuries, officials said. The crash was reported at about 12:30 p.m. in an area covered by sage and grass near the airport […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Seattle police officer fired for off-duty racist comments

SEATTLE (AP) — A Seattle police officer was fired for calling his Chinese American neighbor racist and sexist slurs while off duty in 2022, according to a news report. Officer Burton Hill was fired in May, The Seattle Times reported. The termination stemmed from an altercation with his neighbor, Zhen Jin, over the disposal of […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Appeals court panel refuses to delay Trump ally Steve Bannon’s 4-month contempt prison sentence

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court panel on Thursday rejected longtime Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon’s bid to stay out of prison while he fights his conviction for defying a subpoena from the House committee that investigated the U.S. Capitol attack. Bannon is supposed to report to prison by July 1 to begin serving […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

2 killed in helicopter crash in Washington state, authorities say

BLUESTEM, Wash. (AP) — Two men died in a helicopter crash in eastern Washington state, authorities said. Lincoln County Fire District 6 Chief Brandon Larmer told KREM-TV that the helicopter had two people aboard when it crashed Wednesday afternoon. The men who died were identified Thursday as 68-year-old Ryan Sandvig, of Spokane, and 63-year-old Mark […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Gold bars and Sen. Bob Menendez’s curiosity about their price takes central role at bribery trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors showed jurors at Sen. Bob Menendez ’s trial on Thursday multiple instances when he researched the value of gold as he tried to help a New Jersey businessman who authorities say bribed him with gold and cash. The evidence about the Democrat’s online searches was prominently displayed to a New […]

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

1st ocean fish farm proposed for East Coast off New England