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NOAA Fisheries look at SWFL coast for seafood farming

From orange groves to tomato fields; Farming’s no stranger to Southwest Florida, and neither is fishing.

And now, aquaculture – or seafood farming – is coming to the southern Gulf Coast.

Danielle Blacklock is the director of NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture. She said, “It’s the idea of growing fish, shellfish, like oysters, and mussels, and clams, as well as algae, seaweed.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or ‘NOAA,’ hopes to bring aquafarms to this to the Gulf of Mexico.

“We haven’t found any of those spaces yet,” Blacklock explained. “We’re just starting to have that conversation.”

While aquaculture has benefits, including seafood for our diets, jobs, and environmental growth, people like Paul Keck from Placida are not convinced, “The first question I have as a resident of Florida is, ‘why do we even need this?'”

He believes better conservation efforts, like doing away with pesticides and removing excess nitrogen from our waters, would negate the need to harvest fish and other seafood like this.

Keck believes, instead we should “…enact laws that will protect and foster the continued health and growth and reproduction of natural, unaltered fish.”

But Blacklock also points to the farms helping our water quality. “Shellfish have an added water quality improvement aspect where they’re constantly filtering the water and making it cleaner. It’s really a net benefit for the ecosystem.”

NOAA is checking out four different study areas around the Gulf of Mexico for closer analysis and the agency’s also looking for public input.

You can give comment on the project through the Federal Register until December 22, by clicking here.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
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