Sustainable Aquaculture

One Possible Solution to Overfishing

Written by Alex Reid
Posted March 14, 2012

When I was in third grade, I remember taking a field trip to a fish hatchery and farm in upstate New York.

I don’t remember much regarding the specifics, but I do remember feeling particularly sorry for the fish. The hatcheries looked cramped and absurdly crowded. And although I'm not a PETA member, it was definitely more than I could take.

I have no idea if on a subconscious level that experience was my impetus for drastically cutting back on fish in the last two years. I don’t think it was my primary reason, as I know absolutely why I stopped: overfishing.

There's no debating the fact that overfishing is having an extraordinarily detrimental effect on the world's fish populations. Truth is, we're pretty much at a tipping point where some species may become extinct if we keep on consuming at our present rate.

Of course, with every crisis, there's always a potential solution. And a company called Open Blue may be part of that solution.

Founded in 2007 by Brian O’Hanlon, Open Blue is quickly becoming a game-changer in the world of aquaculture.

Now traditional forms of aquaculture tend to involve breeding and housing fish in on-land hatcheries or in shallow water, very close to land. But O’Hanlon, a third generation fish farmer, decided to take his hatchery out to sea. Specifically, out in the Caribbean, seven miles offshore from Costa Arriba in Panama.

O’Hanlon’s method involves taking traditional aquaculture techniques and putting them in the middle of the ocean, 30 feet below the surface. By making this shift, the fish are kept in a cleaner, cooler environment. And instead of keeping them in small pens or those cramped tanks in on-land hatcheries, Open Blue uses a series of large, deep-water net pens where fish tend to be less stressed.

Open Blue also maintains a strong commitment to providing a reliable and renewable source of healthy fish. In fact, the fish raised by Open Blue is pretty much as clean and natural as fish raised in the wild.

You see, in shallow waters, waste tends to build up causing all kinds of health issues for the fish. But by submerging the aquaculture pens as deep as Ocean Blue does, the waste is dispersed naturally and becomes part of the ecosystem, the way it’s supposed to be.

Now Ocean Blue specializes in Cobia. This is a fish that's typically a nomadic type of fish and thus rarely sold in commercial quantities.

Cobia can actually grow to be 75 inches long and weigh as much as 100 pounds. Although Open Blue harvests them when they weigh about 8.8 pounds.

Because of Open Blue’s feeding and farming techniques, its Cobia are completely free of PCBs, colorants, pesticides and the like. In fact, Open Blue will only use medications or treatments on the fish if they are suffering, and never as a preventative measure.

Interestingly, Open Blue’s most recent harvest volume was almost equal to the entire Untied States' wild capture harvest. The company expects to actually exceed that number this year.

Now I'm not saying I'm going to run out and start scarfing down a bunch of fish today. After all, as I mentioned last week, I'm quickly finding myself embracing a vegetarian lifestyle. However, I'm certainly happy to see a company like Open Blue looking to offer more sustainable aquaculture methods.

You can read more about Open Blue here.