June 13 rally against industrial ‘fish farms’ planned at Maxine Barritt Park in Venice

Event to begin at 11:30 a.m. at Maxine Barritt Park, next to Venice Pier

On Tuesday, June 13, members of the public are invited to attend a rally in Venice that will protest plans for industrial “fish farms” in the Gulf of Mexico, organizers have announced.

The event will begin at 11:30 a.m. in the pavilion at the Maxine Barritt Park, which stands at 1800 Harbor Drive S. (34285), a news release says. The site is adjacent to the Venice Pier and Sharky’s on the Pier.

The theme of the rally will be “Say No to Industrial Fish Farms off our Coast!” the release adds.

Sierra Club Florida has filed a court challenge of the permit that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued in June 2022 to a Hawaii-based company, Ocean Era, for a “net-pen” aquaculture project that would be located about 45 miles off the Sarasota County coast, the release points out.

Officially, that permit granted Ocean Era the authority under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) to discharge wastewater from an aquatic animal production facility “producing up to 80,000 pounds [per year] for one production cycle.”

The permit issued on June 8, 2022 is valid through July 7, 2027, the document says.

The company filed the application for the permit on Nov. 12, 2018, the application notes. At that time, Ocean Era was going by the name Kampachi Farms.

As explained in that document, one goal of the undertaking was to rear 20,000 almaco jack fish in a “temporary, small-scale demonstration pen” for one year in a location west-southwest of Sarasota. The expected yield, the document pointed out, would be about 17,000 fish, based on an estimated 85% survival rate, “with a final fish size of approximately 4.4 pounds” per fish. Thus, the document continued, the anticipated maximum harvest weight would be 74,800 pounds.

“The fish will be landed in Florida, marketed, and sold to state- and Federally-licensed dealers,” the application added.

The net-pen that would contain the almaco jack, which are also called longfin yellowtail, would be a copper alloy mesh, submersible circular cage with a diameter of 17 meters and a height of 7 meters, according to the EPA. “The mooring line for the proposed project will be attached to a floating cage that will rotate in the prevailing current direction,” an EPA fact sheet said. “The ocean currents will maintain the mooring rope and chain under tension during most times of operation,” the fact sheet noted.

Another goal of the pilot project, the application said, was “to directly address the public misperception of, and fishing industry resistance to, the expansion of open ocean aquaculture in the [Gulf of Mexico].”
The pilot project is called Velella Epsilon.

Multiple nonprofit organizations with a national focus have decried the proposal since it first was announced. In an October 2022 news release, Meredith Stevenson, staff attorney for the Center for Food Safety, said, “EPA never should have issued a permit for Velella Epsilon. Its hasty environmental assessment overlooked the potential dangers of industrial aquaculture, including fish escapes and harms to endangered species. We should be protecting our ocean ecosystems and coastal communities, not approving industrial aquaculture facilities that irreparably harm them,” she added.

The news release about the June 13 rally says that Ocean Era has informed the EPA that it wants to modify the permit in regard to the species of fish it will use, as well as the type of facility, “meaning only the location of the facility is the same as when the permit was issued!” The release adds, “This gives us even more reason to oppose this project and means that the old permit should be revoked immediately.”

During the rally, the release continues, “Several speakers will explain why they want to stop this offshore fish farm.” Then, organizers will take questions from members of the news media, the release notes.

“We will have ‘no fish farm’ mini-posters and stickers for attendees, but we encourage you to make your own posters!” the release adds.

“Please join us to show the EPA that our community cares about our water, wildlife, and the people and businesses that depend on a healthy Gulf!” the release says.

1 thought on “June 13 rally against industrial ‘fish farms’ planned at Maxine Barritt Park in Venice”

Comments are closed.