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Fish Farming Gets Boost Locally From Federal Government

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The San Diego region figures to get a boost in jobs and seafood production from the federal government.

CARLSBAD -- "Aquaculture," the development of fish farms, will get a boost in local coastal waters. The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today announced a public-private initiative for creating jobs and increasing seafood production.

In launching the "Aquaculture Technology Transfer," NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco indicated that federal subsidies will be offered to science-based innovations which hold the promise of job creation and increased production.

Lubchenco toured the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute's marine hatchery in Carlsbad before announcing the key points of the new initiative:

"NOAA working with partners to develop select technology-transfer-science innovation projects to advance marine aquaculture; two, NOAA prioritizing grant funding for innovation, start-ups and training, loan financing for expansion of operations; and three, NOAA providing leadership and guidance through the regulatory process."

She said 85 percent of the seafood we eat in the U.S. is imported and half of it comes from farms. But only about 5 percent of the farmed fish consumed in the U.S. is homegrown.

Lubchenco said the U.S. trade deficit in seafood now exceeds $10 billion.

Don Kent with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute said aquaculture technology developed in the U.S. can change those numbers.

"And it's a matter of whether we're going to pass all that off to somebody else or we're going to take advantage of these technologies we've developed here," said Kent. "NOAA has recognized it's time to take advantage of them here and develop the farming industry that can create the jobs and the economic benefit for our society."

With more than 50 percent of the seafood the U.S. consumes coming from farms, companies processing wild fish are looking to aquaculture.

"When we look at where the growth is, we're already starting to evaluate certain farmed and aquaculture fisheries," said Chris Lischewski, President and CEO of BumbleBee Seafoods. "Clearly what we've seen here in the U.S. it's absolutely possible and it's clearly the future."

Located on Agua Hedonia Lagoon, the fishery seeks to enhance the California white seabass, producing more than 350,000 young fish each year which are released off the coast.

The Obama Administration has recently supported the notion of streamlining federal regulations in an effort to increase fish farming and production. Hubbs-Seaworld tried two years ago to secure permits for a large-scale research project involving thousands of striped bass off Mission Beach. The effort foundered in red tape, however.

While fish farming has been successful in Baja California, there are no commercial fish farms in federal waters on the West Coast of the U.S.

Environmentalists have opposed large-scale fish farming in ocean waters on grounds that it increases pollution.

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