Plans are underway to establish the United States’ first open ocean finfish farm in federal waters. Manna Fish Farms is on track to begin producing striped bass this year in submerged floating pods eight miles off the coast of Long Island, NY.
There are several other examples of open ocean fish farms in the U.S., including Blue Ocean Mariculture which produces 700,000-900,000 lbs of Hawaiian Kanpachi per year off the coast of Kona; Cates International produced Pacific Threadfin for several years off the Ewa coast of Hawaii before going bankrupt; and Snapper Farms also utilized open ocean pens off Puerto Rico in the early 2000s.
What makes Manna Fish Farms different is its location in federal waters. State waters extend three nautical miles from the coast, after which point the territory is federal and the permitting process is intensive. This is where Manna intends to place its pens.
CEO Donna Lanzetta believes the future of aquaculture is limitless if it moves offshore. Which is why Manna began searching for a prime location to conduct a fish farming operation in the open ocean. It had to be clear of shipping lanes, with proper current flow and depth. Once the location was determined, the question of how to run an operation eight miles out at sea arose. This is where technological advances come in handy: Lanzetta worked with the University of New Hampshire to design an automated feed system that could work remotely on a timed schedule. An added bonus is transparency, as the feeding system will be equipped with a camera which will be made accessible to the public so consumers can see the source of their food.
Several specifics remain, including what the fish feed will be made up of, and securing a stock of fingerlings that are genetically compatible with wild striped bass to reduce harm in the event of an escapement. Manna is a nonprofit organization and plans to give back to the community either through food or resource sustainability, and will also provide research and education opportunities.