‘The Lobster Place’ is one of New York’s biggest fish markets. Located in the famous Chelsea Market, it sells thousands of pounds of fish and seafood through wholesale and retail every day. Here, in 2016, many New Yorkers got to one of their first states of cobia (Rachycentron canadum): a soft, firm, white-flesh fish, rich in Omega-3 (a 4-ounce serving provides 2500mg of this fatty acid). For many, cobia is a “super fish,” but also the new promise of mariculture.
A less known fact is perhaps that the cobia you buy there, most likely comes from Panama. “If you visit a restaurant today in the United States and find farm-raised cobia on the menu, there is an 80% chance it hails from the Caribbean waters off the coast of Costa Arriba, in Colón,” explains Javier Visuetti, Open Blue’s Government and Community Relations Manager. Open Blue is devoted to sustainable mariculture; specifically, to the farming of this premium fish in offshore open ocean farms. The sea stations are located eight miles offshore, away from sensitive ecosystems, which guarantees a healthy and sustainable environment for the fish; they are the largest underwater fish farm in the world, with unique state of the art technology.
Visuetti is a trained microbiologist who began his career twenty years ago in the shrimp industry; in 2009 he joined Open Blue. For Visuetti, aquaculture is called to fill an important gap in the provision of the protein required by the growing population of the planet (over the next 50 years, the world is going to need more food than has been produced in the past 10,000 years.). What is more, it needs to be done in an innovative and sustainable way: mariculture.
Our planet is 70% water. The oceans provide more than half of the oxygen we breathe and regulate the earth’s climate; aquaculture and fishing provide sustenance to about 820 million people in the world, however, there is an important difference between the two.
Traditional fishing is usually an extractive activity, while aquaculture is productive. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), defines aquaculture as “farming of aquatic organisms in both coastal and inland areas involving interventions in the rearing process to enhance production.”
Mariculture pertains to a specialized branch of aquaculture that applies acquired knowledge through exhaustive research on fish farming in the high seas, within a closed-up section of the ocean: tanks, ponds or canals that are filled with seawater.
In other words, whereas traditional aquaculture is carried out in ponds in the mainland, mariculture involves growing fish in the open sea, that is, in its natural environment. It is “putting things in place, ” says Visuetti, to farm fish responsibly and sustainably, respecting the oceans and for the benefit of human health.
Mariculture is acquiring an increasingly important role as one of the main sources of high-quality food of animal origin. According to The Economist, many fisheries in the world are reaching or have exceeded their sustainable capacity, so it is very important to make efforts for fishing farms to become increasingly productive.
According to figures from the FAO, at a global level, people eat more fish than meat, and farm fish account for almost half of that amount. Marine resources are running out and climate change is affecting the fishing industry. In this context and given the hike in demand and the increasing cost of wild raw materials, it is essential to produce healthy fish that can nourish current and future generations.