Fish Farms for Saving the Ocean with Neil Anthony Sims

Neil Sims and his colleagues at Kampachi Farms are refining methods for producing sustainable, scalable, and (most importantly) delicious fish. Sims believes that the best way to improve the environment is to use market tools; to provide economic incentives to achieve the ecological imperatives.

Sims began as a fisheries biologist, managing commercial fisheries and working to educate fishermen on how to keep fish populations healthy for multiple generations. He quickly learned that the incentives in commercial fisheries are to catch as many fish as possible, as quickly as possible. So now he works to create a fish farming model that provides sustainable and scalable sources of seafood that have a minimal environmental footprint. 

Sims has run multiple research projects to test different technologies for fish farms, which he called the Velella Projects. Fishermen in Hawaii learned that the Velella’s floating fish pens were a boon for the local fishing industry.

Boats fishing around the Velella Gamma array with feed barge and buoy in foreground.
© Kampachi Farms, Photo credit: Neil Anthony Sims

The Velella fish cages attracted tuna, mahi-mahi, and marlin. The next one (Velella Project Epsilon) will be deployed off the coast of Sarasota, Florida in 2020. 

Wild fish surround the Kampachi fish cage.
© Kampachi Farms, Photo credit: Rick Decker

These farms have used a species known locally as Kahala– a fish that was thrown back if caught in the wild– and raised them into tasty Kampachi.

Lockheed Martin supported the early research. Some of the Lockheed engineers launched Forever Oceans to continue to revolutionize mariculture.

Macro-algae (aka seaweed) cultivation has huge potential to provide feed for fish and animals because it doesn’t require land, fresh water, or fertilizer, unlike crops grown on land. Seaweed farms can absorb the excess nutrients in the water that cause dead zones and pull carbon dioxide out of the water. Ocean acidification has a catastrophic impact on ocean ecosystems.

“Off-shore macro-algae culture is the only way that we can harness entrepreneurial incentive (the profit motive) to counter ocean acidification,” Sims says. “If someone else has to pay for it, it’s not scalable.”

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