August 13, 2014

Beyond the Bureaucracies: Catalina Sea Ranch

Phil Cruver, CEO of Catalina Sea Ranch, plans to establish the first-ever offshore mussel farm in U.S. federal waters beyond the jurisdiction of many California regulators by October. The Orange County Register reports:

“Investors and government officials see Sea Ranch as a must-succeed venture. Otherwise, U.S. aquaculture may never catch up with the rest of the world.”

We’ve been cheerleaders for Catalina Sea Ranch since Phil alerted us to his daring venture in 2012.  National Geographic recently explained why:

“Aquaculture has expanded about 14-fold since 1980 … Such farms help China grow 12 million tons of food a year with no soil or fresh water and no fertilizer except runoff from the land. Oceans cover 71 percent of Earth yet provide less than 2 percent of our food—for now.”

Roger O’Brien, who serves as Director for Catalina Sea Ranch, told the Register, “If Catalina doesn’t succeed, I think aquaculture will be moved back 20 years in the U.S.”

The onerous California permitting process dissuades entrepreneurs, investors and business folk from risking innovation in this crucial domain. To advance aquaculture, Phil was forced to leave California waters and establish his ranch 10 miles offshore in federal waters. The report continues:

“Since the Sea Ranch farm is in federal waters, Cruver mostly dealt with federal agencies to get the appropriate permits – spending only $100 to get a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction permit. That was much easier than navigating more than 10 California permitting agencies, Cruver said. The one state review he had to undergo – with the California Coastal Commission – took 29 months and cost $6,600.”

Catalina Sea Ranch is a testament to how 21st century ventures can develop vigorously if they are unleashed from 20th century bureaucracies, senseless delays, and payoffs. We believe it’s paramount that we farm fish like civilized aquaculturalists rather than hunt them to extinction like hunter-gatherers.

We wish Phil and his team at Catalina Sea Ranch the best of luck with their efforts to cultivate the blue frontier. Interested in learning more about this venture? Read more here.

To a healthy ocean,
Joe Quirk, Seavangelist
The Seasteading Institute.