Blue Water Fisheries proposes offshore aquaculture operation in US Northeast

The multiple sites that Blue Water Fisheries originally proposed for its aquaculture project.

Blue Water Fisheries, based in the U.S. state of New Hampshire, is proposing a new offshore aquaculture operation in the waters off the coast of New England.

The company has proposed installing 40 submersible fish pens in two mooring grids that would occupy 250 acres of open water roughly seven miles off the coast of Newburyport, Massachusetts, U.S.A. The company hopes to grow salmon and steelhead trout at the farm, along with lumpfish for a research study, using technology from Innovasea. 

The company submitted plans for the project to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) in 2020, originally seeking a location off the coast of either Maine, New Hampshire, or Massachusetts. The council helped narrow down potential sites to ones with consistent depth and low vessel traffic, ultimately arriving at the currently proposed site.

In June 2021, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a public comment period for the work, which included further details that the project would require a fleet of six vessels to tend to the fish farm at full buildout. According to a report by the Associated Press, the farm would produce up to 25.6 million pounds, or over 11,500 metric tons, of fish each year.

Several environmental NGOs are monitoring the project’s progress out of concern for wild populations of Atlantic salmon, the AP reported.

A recent decision by the New England Fishery Management Council will make it easier for Blue Water Fisheries to farm Atlantic salmon in federal waters. The council signed off on an adjustment to its Atlantic Salmon Fishery Management Plan that allows industry members that get authorization from NOAA fisheries to posses farm-raised Atlantic salmon in federal waters.

“The council’s original [plan] prohibits directed fishing and possession of Atlantic salmon in the U.S. exclusive economic zone,” the NEFMC said in a press release. “However, the [plan] also gives the council the ability to develop a framework action to authorize salmon aquaculture in federal waters – if it chooses to do so.”

Blue Water Fisheries’ farm is not the first offshore aquaculture operation proposed to the MAFMC for the U.S. Northeast. In October 2020, Manna Fish Farms sent its own project materials to the council, seeking permission for a commercial aquaculture farm in federal waters 9 miles off the coast of Long Island, New York. That project sought to raise steelhead trout and potentially black sea bass in submerged net pens. 

The Manna Fish Farms project plans to deploy 12 to 18 submersible net pens at the site, using StormSafe Submersible Net Pens.  

Image courtesy of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council


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