SAN DIEGO — Over 85% of seafood consumed in the United States is imported but the folks at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute want to change that with yellowtail fish.
"What we want to do is develop a model on how to do this for the country," said the institute's president Don Kent.
Hubbs is behind the first-of-its-kind aquaculture in federal ocean waters.
"If we're growing yellowtail here, they could be growing almaco jack in the Gulf of Mexico," said Kent. "Keep the species in the range they live."
Pacific Ocean Aquafarms is the business side of the partnership that is working with Hubbs, but before that can happen, they have to get permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the E.P.A. Last week, a notice of intent was registered.
"That informed the public NOAA would be leading an environmental review for those permits," Kent said.
This is to allow people time to raise objections or pose questions.
The pens would be located about four miles off the San Diego coastline.
"So, this is really a model for how it should be done for the entire country," said Kent. "It takes into account anybody's concerns and any other issues."
Hubbs has been developing the model with yellowtail since 2003
"But it's time now to transfer it from what we do in the lab to where it's going to feed real people," Kent said. "It has to be done on a much larger scale."
Permitting is expected to take 18 - 24 months.
"Then a year to mobilize the farm and build the pens that are going out," said Kent. "It takes 18-22 months to grow the fish 3.5 - 4 kilos. We're going to start at 1,000 tons. It will take another five years for full production."
Kent thinks that full production will equal 5,000 metric tons and by growing the food closer said that means a lower environmental cost.
"If we grow the food four miles away instead of five or six thousand miles away, we're lowering our carbon footprint and lowering the overall cost to produce the food," he said.