US Army Corps of Engineers will hear public comment on Velella Epsilon

Published on
October 6, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced today that it will hold a public comment period on Hawaii-based open-ocean mariculture start-up Ocean Era’s Velella Epsilon project off the coast of Florida.

Ocean Era’s Florida pilot project, Velella Epsilon, would be located 45 miles southwest of Sarasota. The project would farm 20,000 almaco jack, a fish native to the Gulf of Mexico, in one net-pen. The project recently received a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The decision to hold a public comment period on the project was made after the local community expressed concerns at a hearing hosted by the environmental group Friends of the Earth last week.

Opponents of the proposed offshore fish farm demonstration pen say would create pollution in the form of fish waste, spread diseases to wild fish populations and increase competition with fishing companies that depend on wild catches. The hearing was attended by local residents, politicians, fishermen and other activist groups, like the Don’t Cage Our Ocean Coalition, a group fighting against the creation and approval of industrial ocean fish farms.

“Preventing the public and agencies from taking an important ‘hard look’ at risks and consequences of every new offshore marine finfish aquaculture facility is a big mistake – and raises legal questions,” reads a statement issued by coalition earlier this year when when a federal executive order opened doors for the project to move forward. "Globally the industry has been associated with a wide range of problems, and countries like Canada and Denmark are moving away from this form of seafood production. To speed up development of these facilities in the United States without allowing for proper review and discussion will cause widespread damage both ecologically and economically.”

Ocean Era CEO  Neil Anthony Sims has remained adamant that the company is understanding of local concerns, but that all environmental concerns have or will be addressed.

Approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the final federal certification standing in the way of the Velella Epsilon project ramping up.

More information on the project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ charge and the public comment period can be found in a public notice online.

Photo courtesy of Ocean Era

Reporting from Portland, Oregon

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