What You Don’t Know About Sea World’s Massive San Diego Fish Farm

If the brainchild of a private equity firm and Sea World sounds like your worst nightmare, I have bad news for you: You’re not dreaming. The Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute is joining forces with Cuna Del Mar in an attempt to install a massive fish farm, to be known as Rose Canyon Fisheries, off the coast of San Diego in California’s rich, complicated, diverse marine ecosystem.

They claim that the result will be a sustainable, environmentally balanced fishery that could reduce the amount of fish being imported into the United States while providing an ample supply of food for fish-lovers, but there are a few caveats to the story that should be giving even the most enthusiastic proponents room for pause. We know that fish farms can come with some serious environmental problems, and one with a 1.3 square mile footprint — the largest ever in the United States — could be an ugly proving ground.

When it comes to aquaculture regulation in the United States, individual states are largely left to their own devices to make determinations about who should be allowed to exploit natural resources and how. Tellingly, Rose Canyon Fisheries is planned for a site four miles off the coast — close enough to make it easy to transport fish and supplies, but far out enough that it’s in federal waters, not within California’s jurisdiction.

Despite the fact that it will have an indisputable impact on California fisheries, not to mention quality of life for people living near the shoreline who will be able to clearly see the farm, and the environment, the state is effectively powerless to do anything, though it can lodge protests.

Environmental activists are concerned with a number of issues. Fish farms all over the world tend to produce fish extremely inefficiently, because many rely on wild-caught species to feed their stock. Proponents claim that these are “trash” fish and species unpopular among humans, but fish farms are still creating a market for these species, some of whom are important for marine animals elsewhere on the food chain.

In addition, fish farms come with a massive dose of nutrient pollution, concentrating fish waste in a small area. Nutrient pollution can contribute to algal blooms, which disrupt the ecosystem and sometimes even create dead zones where nothing can thrive because there’s so much algae in the water that it blocks the light.

Moreover, farmed fish can become diseased, and their diseases can spread beyond the boundaries of their pens and into wild population. Farmers control for that risk by adding pesticides, antibiotics, and other potential pollutants to the water, which is bad news for the environment.

As if all of these problems weren’t enough, other species can become entangled in pens. This includes marine mammals along with other fish, and fish pens don’t respect endangered species legislation — fragile and threatened species are just as likely to get trapped in netting and rope as any other animals. Consequently, fish farming facilities can interfere with biodiversity and harm the marine landscape for future generations. Furthermore, depending on placement, they can be directly on the migration path of species like gray whales, while move up and down California’s coastline annually.

Rose Canyon says that the fishery’s practices will be “sustainable,” from food sourcing to waste management — one claim revolves around the more remote location, with the company claiming that waste will disperse naturally instead of forming a concentrated cloud that could promote algal growth. The company is also developing unique fencing and anchoring materials to keep fish pens in place and reduce the risk that animals attracted by the penned fish will get tangled in netting and anchor lines.

Other authorities aren’t so comfortable. San Diego Coastkeeper, an ocean advocacy organization, has already expressed grave concern over what it calls a “feedlot, but in the ocean.” The San Diego Public Utilities Commission, responsible for regulating and monitoring utilities in San Diego, is concerned about what the farm will do to ocean conditions around the shoreline, which it keeps a close eye on in the interest of environmental health. Even the Navy weighed in against the proposed project. That’s a diverse and disparate number of sources lined up to oppose the project, illustrating the considerable concerns associated with installing a massive fish farm in largely unregulated offshore waters.

This is a battle that will likely play out over the course of months and years as various parties fight for and against the farm, but it’s telling that an organization with a history of problems when it comes to environmental welfare is one of the major partners.

Photo credit: Luna sin estrelles


william Miller
william Millerabout a year ago


Mark Donner
Mark Donner1 years ago

Ron Loynes: You are no expert. You're just another uneducated planet destroyer chiming in with his moronic bias. Why don't you go fight the US Navy since they're against it and you claim you know everything about those insane fish farms.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Muff-Anne York-Haley

Sea World is disgusting!

Ron Loynes
Ron Loynes1 years ago

"Despite the fact that it will have an indisputable impact on California fisheries, not to mention quality of life for people living near the shore" very interesting choice of words but absolutely no proof that any of it is true! Properly maintained fish farms like any other man made form of farming are both safe and necessary for human survival. Why we import so many fish is because people make rules or laws that imply they actually have omnipotent skills of knowing the future. Please practice responsible journalism.

Sherry Kohn
Sherry K1 years ago

Many thanks to you !

Misss D2 years ago

Going off on a slight tangent here but I thought you may be interested to watch a film about whales and dolphins and whether they have 'rights' or not. The film is on this link https://vimeo.com/152855940 but it's only viewable until 26th February. You can find out more about the film on this link: http://uk.whales.org/blog/2016/02/ground-breaking-film-makes-case-for-whale-and-dolphin-rights?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ENL-ALL 2016-02-23&utm_content=ENL-ALL 2016-02-23 CID_39aa8421ee51b73f6b3906865300eb05&utm_source=Campaign Monitor&utm_term=Read our blog

Natasha Site problems
Past Member 2 years ago

Everything associated with SeaWorld is a nightmare. I just wanna see this brand go outta business already.

Elaine Al Meqdad
Elaine Al Meqdad2 years ago


Frances Bell
Frances Bell2 years ago

BS BS BS..... SeaWorld is full of it! Fish farms are not the answer for feeding the world or keeping the environment and fish populations healthy. This is no more than factory farming in the marine environment and comes with the same concerns for animal welfare that piggeries, dairies, and chicken farms do.