Sarasota opposes controversial fish farm proposal for Gulf of Mexico
With a deadline to voice opposition looming, Sarasota city commissioners agreed late Monday to send a letter that condemns a controversial precedent-setting fish farm planned for waters off the coast of Sarasota to the federal regulators who will decide whether to authorize it.
Commissioners have a “strong and formal opposition” to a pilot project by Kampachi Farms that plans to anchor a chain-link mesh pen offshore of Southwest Florida, according to a draft letter addressed to Kip Tyler, an environmental engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The project aims to raise 20,000 almaco jack about 45 miles southwest of Sarasota County.
As part of the EPA’s permitting process to determine if discharges from the fish will adversely affect the water, the federal agency had been collecting feedback. The deadline to submit formal comments is Tuesday.
The letter, drafted by Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, will also be sent to Sarasota County commissioners and Mote Marine Laboratory, which would provide fingerling almaco jack spawned and raised at its land-based Mote Aquaculture Research Park.
The letter, signed by Ahearn-Koch, expresses concerns that the discharge of nitrogen and phosphorous would affect waters known for harmful algal blooms. Citing the Gulf’s sensitivity to red tide, the letter goes on to say that commissioners further believe that adding those discharges to “our warm Gulf waters is too risky and dangerous, even on a trial basis.”
As part of the farm’s monitoring requirements, Kampachi must test monthly for nitrogen and phosphorus levels, among other discharges near the net pen. The EPA has also said that the project, dubbed Velella Epsilon, won’t have a detrimental environmental impact.
The red tide outbreak in 2018 left Florida’s coastlines devastated — affecting quality of life of residents, tourists and the economic vitality of Sarasota’s tourism and related businesses, the letter says.
“As elected officials, we must protect the health, welfare and safety of our constituents,” Ahearn-Koch wrote in the letter.
Although commissioners generally support the pursuit of aquaculture, it “objects to the experimental nature of the Kampachi Farms project.”
Southwest Florida's Gulf shore is a seashell lover's dream. Check out these seven that are among those shells that are frequently found in the region. Scientific and common names follow each photo. Thanks, to Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum for the photos and to museum Science Director & Curator Jose Leal, for the identifications.