The proposed free-floating fish farm off the coast of Sarasota is not happening. It was squelched by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Monday, August 3, which blocked recent federal rules allowing offshore aquaculture operations in federal Gulf waters.
An executive order Trump signed in May decreed federal policy “identify and remove unnecessary regulatory barriers” restricting aquaculture in federal waters. At issue was the proposed free-floating aquaculture venture called the“Velella Project,” a year-long test to raise 20,000 native Almaco Jack in a floating 100-foot copper-alloy mesh cage lowered to 130 feet. The owner, Kampachi FishFarms, LLC, a Hawaiian aquaculture company based in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, considered the environmental impact and said they were taking precautions. Opponents said concerns included possible disease spreading to native fish populations, and the added waste generated could upset the delicate Gulf ecosystem.
Local commercial fishers also opposed the project, saying it would disrupt the fishery and threaten their livlihood. The project would have been the first aquaculture on federal waters; Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota was supplying the “fry.”
So, for now, the Gulf is safe from floating fish farms.