One thing I haven’t seen is any media coverage on the current status on offshore aquaculture. Aquaculture is coming due in large part to years of unsustainable fishing. The NMFS and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has dropped the ball and now several species of reef fish are overfished, or currently experiencing overfishing including our beloved gag grouper. Many recreational fishermen will argue that there are plenty of grouper out there, and even more juveniles inshore. Study after study has been done that show grouper are being fished beyond sustainable levels. The juveniles being caught inshore will also take five to six years (for gag) to reach a level where they will be able to reproduce and another two years to become productive males. Some groups have even gone as far as hiring a biologist from Canada to dispute what our American scientists have been saying for years, thus prolonging corrective action and allowing overfishing to continue. If I remember correctly, Canada lost its cod fishery and thousands of jobs due to poor management. The Gulf of Mexico aquaculture industry is trying to sneak in under the radar before national rules and regulations can be put into effect to govern a potentially harmful environmental problem. Because of our insatiable appetite for fresh seafood many believe aquaculture is the answer. What few people know about aquaculture is that it has the potential to spoil our natural environment in many ways. Aquacultured fish are crowded into pens that promote disease, treated heavily with antibiotics, and pollute the seafloor where the pens are anchored. Escapees compete, and mate with native species altering their genetics. Monterey Bay Aquarium has a great area on their web site and a free DVD that explains the dangers of this industry. Aquaculture needs to be watched closely as it evolves or we may be all be eating frankenfish in the future.
If you would like more information on aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico, visit the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council website at gulfcouncil.org