WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21: Bermuda could soon have its first coastal ‘seafood farm’ as Government moves to create new job opportunities on the water.
An application is in the works for an aquaculture venture which environment bosses see as a potential first step in a cultural switch from ‘hunting to farming’ in the fishing industry.
Fred Ming, director of environmental protection, said there was an opportunity to develop a new job-creating industry in Bermuda.
He believes aquaculture – which includes the farming of fish and other seafood in open-ocean enclosures — has potential to become big business in Bermuda.
And the Department of Environmental Protection is looking to help private investors get start-up businesses off the ground.
The move is part of a new focus on the ‘Blue Ocean Economy’ — highlighted by Premier Paula Cox as a potential source of new industry amid the country’s economic struggles.
The potential for ocean-floor mining and wave-energy have also been discussed as part of a strategy to take advantage of Bermuda’s territorial waters. The island has exclusive economic rights to develop industry within a 200m radius.
Experts will also look at a ‘zoning’ system for the ocean to ensure increased economic activity does not erode natural habitats or infringe on leisure use.
Mr Ming said: “We have to look at what the Premier is saying in raw terms — lets look at the full field of opportunity that could be profitable, generate business and produce jobs without hurting the environment.
“Aquaculture globally is growing at a faster rate than any other food production or livestock production industry.
“As world fishery stocks come under greater pressure that shift is going to be even more pronounced.”
He said the department had been in discussions with two separate ‘entities’ about potential aquaculture businesses in Bermuda.
He added: “We have interest from overseas. We have one ‘entity’ that has asked for and received an application to launch a small aquaculture venture here.”
The move would involve Government leasing a portion of the water-column and granting a permit to the business for seafood farming.
Mr Ming said he could not yet go into specifics on exactly what the new business would involve.
The director, who worked in the salmon farming industry in Canada, said Government’s role was to create an attractive environment for business — not to get involved themselves.
He added: “One of the things that would be good to see is some interest on the part of the fishermen to get into this kind of business.
“We don’t expect people who have been fishing for 20 years to suddenly switch to aquaculture, but for those who are coming into the industry it might be good to look at fishing from the standpoint of being a farmer rather than a hunter.”
He believes there is potential for Bermuda to establish an export market for locally grown fish and is confident the industry could become a major job-creator.
“It can employ a significant number of people here,” he added.
The Department of Environmental Protection will host a workshop for anyone interested in getting involved in aquaculture on October 17 at Horticulture Hall. The workshop will be led by Dr Rex Dunham — a catfish farming expert from Auburn University in Alabama