Sustainable seafood project aims to improve aquaculture fish industry

Rows of tanks, full of fish, line the Mote Aquaculture Research Park.

"It is really important we produce the seafood that we are eating," said Director Dr. Kevan Main.

Main is a fish farmer. She helps raise five species of fish, particularly pompano and red drum.

She said the two species will be fed a diet of mullet byproducts, purchased from fisherman at the Cortez Fishing Village.

Mote Marine Laboratory, along with Healthy Earth, won a $375,000 grant for their sustainable seafood project.
Healthy Earth is the project leader.

"Why can't we figure out more of the ways to get more of that resource locally and a great way is by utilizing the mullet that is being harvested out of Cortez, and producing seafood locally for local communities," Main said.

Many Cortez fisherman are skeptical. Over the years, they have been squeezed by regulations and fear this could ultimately put them out of business. 

But Nancy Feely with Island Fresh Market sees the potential.

"If there was some way we could capture that piece of the fish that isn't being used for the roe and being sent overseas and use that for the fish food. Wonderful," she said.

Feely said she would buy aquaculture fish for her market and hopes prices for farm raised fish will be lower.

"We have to develop sustainable entities that will help us be able to get the product in a good way in the end," said Feely.

Main said this isn't an idea that has evolved over time.

"Over 50 percent of the fish we consume today are produced in aquaculture," said Main.

She hopes others will embrace the concept.

"My tag line is 'locally sourced,' so anything I can get local and sell and help the local market, that is what this shop is all about," said Feely.