Saturday, April 11, 2015


The following four articles are represent just a few of a myriad of articles I have read in the last 2 weeks each of which is reporting on collapsing fisheries stocks, ocean pollution, loss of habitat, disease and worse. Basically if one takes the time to keep abreast (and if you can avoid falling into a state of depression), to quote my grandmother, “ it does not take a rocket scientist to see the oceans are in serious trouble.”
Something has to be done and done soon and the silly and ill intentioned efforts by most governments are just exacerbating the problem.
Nuff Said.

Eight Chilean fisheries undergoing 'collapse status'

Friday, April 10, 2015, 21:50

A report released by the Undersecretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture (SUBPESCA) reveals that eight Chilean fisheries are undergoing a collapse status and further eight are overexploited, which highlights the sensitive situation faced by the country’s main fishery resources.
In the report Situation Status of the Major Chilean Fisheries, SUBPESCA presents a bleak picture for several national fisheries, since to these depleted or overfished fisheries further 22 that are in full operation are added.
For the first time in Chile the biological reference points (PBR) are officially defined in order to establish the conservation status of fishery resources.
Out of a total of 38 fisheries that were analyzed, 22 have their respective PBR, which according to SUBPESCA, is the result of a joint effort of international experts, national scientific and SUBPESCA.
The report details the hake is one of the resources facing a difficult conservation status, between Coquimbo and Los Lagos Regions, so the fishery has been classified as undergoing a state of exhaustion or collapse.
While just two years ago the authorised hake quota reached 40,000 tonnes, this year the Technical Scientific Committee recommended a quota of 23,000 tonnes, that is to say, a reduction of 42.5 per cent.
"If we do not take administration measures, no matter how hard or strict they are, in a timely and sustainable manner, we risk that in the coming years the hake will be very hard to find," warned SUBPESCA head Raul SĂșnico.
Other resources that were found in collapse or exhaustion status are the anchovy of the southern-central area, Spanish sardine, golden kingklip, Cardinal fish and alfonsino.
Meanwhile, those resources deemed as overexploited are the northern anchovy, horse mackerel, hoki, southern hake, southern blue whiting, stingray and Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass).
"These results show us a very important challenge for the future," admitted SĂșnico. "As a government, we are committed to recover our fisheries, respecting the scientific criteria for proper management, widen the scope of the fishing activity, especially the artisanal or small scale one, and provide sustainability for the future."

By Mark Godfrey, SeafoodSource contributing editor reporting from Beijing, China
Published on Monday, March 23 2015
Chinese fishery officials are celebrating the launch of a large new trawler, the Ming Kai, which is being promoted in China as giving the country an edge in the hunt for shrimp and other species in Antarctic waters. It is Asia's largest processing trawler, according to a statement by the Qingdao Ocean & Fisheries Bureau, a government body.
Launched by Qingdao Ocean Fishing Co., also a government controlled entity, the vessel (whose name translates literally as ‘Bright Going Out’) the vessel comes in at 120.7 meters in length, with carrying capacity of 7,765 metric tons (MT) and will carry a crew of 122.
Pictured this month in the farming pages of the People’s Daily (the main mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party) newspaper, the Ming Kai is expected to land an annual haul of 12,000 MT of Antarctic krill and shrimp worth USD11.7 million (EUR 10.29 million), according to the Bureau’s statement, which described the Antarctic as a “vast area [that] bears abundant marine resources, including six to 10 million tons of krill.”
In words that will give conservationists pause, the Bureau’s statement describes the Antarctic as “the world's largest repository of animal protein, the biological equivalent to the current annual global marine catch, with huge potential for exploitation.”
The statement, which is unusually blunt in its declaration of China’s intent, states that “comprehensive development and utilization of Antarctic marine resources of great strategic importance,” given the “natural resources are relatively scarce” for such a populous country [China].
Qingdao Ocean Fishing Co. released a brief statement saying that it was fulfilling a national “going out” strategy of the Chinese government.
Long a hub for the seafood processing industry, Qingdao has in recent years been issuing policies and subsidies to increase the presence of local long-range vessels on the high seas. Building a “strong ocean city” and “frog-leaping the competition in long-distance offshore fishing” are both central to the city’s published plans for future economic development and requires that it promote the development of offshore fishing, according to a blueprint issued by the city’s government.
Seen by SeafoodSource, a Qingdao government document titled the “Implementation Opinions on Accelerating the Construction of a Blue Granary” promises related support policies to support the development of “large-tonnage, high-power steel boats” and also promises to fund a “multi-channel marketing campaign” to draw investors to local fishing firms targeting the high seas.
A government document titled “Views on the Acceleration of Development of Long Distance Fishing Industry” seems designed as much to expand the presence of local pelagic firms in far-off waters as much as to ramp up processing of those catches in Qingdao. Published by the city’s Ocean & Fisheries Bureau, the document also calls on fisheries firms to support a Qingdao Aquatic Trade and Logistics Center Project (also known as the North China International Seafood Logistics Centre), a blueprint which would make Qingdao the largest seafood processing and trading hub in northeast Asia. The center aims to handle 3 million MT of seafood annually, worth CNY 54 billion (USD 8.7 billion; EUR 7.9 billion).
To achieve their goals, Qingdao officials have listed a series of species and locations to be particular targets for local firms: Tuna resources in the Midwest Pacific and Indian Ocean are singled out, as well as squid in the southeast Pacific and the Southwest Atlantic

IN BRIEF - Lobster growth rates to decline under increasing ocean acidification conditions
Thursday, April 09, 2015

 The growth and molting rates of juvenile lobsters are likely to decrease significantly as the oceans become increasingly acidic from climate change, making the animals more vulnerable to predation and leading to fewer adult lobsters being available for harvest.
 Those are the results of a four-month laboratory study conducted by University of Rhode Island doctoral student Erin McLean. "I'm not sure yet what the mechanism is that is affecting their growth," she said, "but it takes energy for them to regulate the increased acidity, which is energy they cannot then put toward growth."
Source: Phys

Forage fish collapse likely worsened by fishing
Tuesday, April 07, 2015

A new study shows for the first time that fishing is likely to worsen population collapse in species of forage fish, including herring, anchovies and sardines. 

Some of the largest fisheries in the world target these species, which are a key source of food for tuna, salmon, whales, and seabirds.

Scientists have long known about wide fluctuations in the abundance of forage fish, including the occasional population collapse. But they had not figured out whether collapses were entirely natural or related to fishing.

“We’ve identified the fingerprint of fishing on population fluctuations, finding that fishing makes the troughs of population cycles deeper. This is particularly important given the vital role these species play in food webs,” said lead author Tim Essington, a University of Washington professor of aquatic and fishery sciences and a Pew marine fellow.

This research suggests that precautionary management may be particularly important with forage fish. 

The researchers used simulations to look at a specific management strategy. They found that suspending fishing when a population falls to less than half of its long-term average would prevent 64 per cent of collapses, but would reduce the average catch by only 2 per cent over the long term.

“The good news is we find that simple strategies can avoid the worst of the ecological impacts, with little costs to fisheries,” Essington said.

“Widespread application of these types of strategies would sustain the benefits people get from forage fish while allowing for sustainable fishing,” the lead author pointed out.

Essington and his colleagues looked at population data for 55 stocks of anchovies, sardines, and other forage fish from around the world. Of those, 27 had collapsed at some point.

To investigate whether fishing was involved, the researchers asked two questions.

Firstly, what was happening before and during the collapse? They found that fishing was particularly intense, about 50 to 200 per cent higher than the average rate. The population’s growth rate was plummeting at the same time, but this drop could explain only a small number of the collapses.

Secondly, do these collapses follow a pattern that would be expected as part of a natural cycle?

To answer that question, the researchers compared the forage fish fluctuations to simulations of natural, random fluctuations. To generate these simulations, they used the magnitudes and frequencies of fluctuation in each of the 55 stocks in the data set.

They found that collapses were more common in the real stocks than in 97 per cent of the simulations, leading them to conclude that fishing is a likely contributor to forage fish collapses.

Though forage fish eventually rebound, the collapses deprive other species of food and fishermen of income for as long as the population is depressed.

This study was supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts and its fellows program for marine conservation and was published  in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 2015

Well, March 2015 is history

It has been a busy month. 

Stephen and Lee had a very productive trip to Japan and Taiwan.

After several meetings and a close look at cash flows we have decided to start the bid process and begin to build modules 3 and 4 here at Taft with actual construction starting (hopefully) in May.

The objective is to have 4 production modules growing shrimp by fall. With a bit of luck and some help from the weather I think this is an achievable objective.

It will be a watershed moment for the company as once we have 4 modules, stocked, and producing shrimp the Taft operation is totally economically sustainable. And then in 2016 we will start to look at serious expansion beyond 4 modules. Exciting times.

Below is a great picture shot by one of the team of one of our production domes at night reflecting off of the water. Very surreal and almost otherworldly. 

Also, after much discussion and number crunching we are starting the preliminary work to begin research and development on several species of premium, high value, fin fish which we believe we can grow in significant quantities using our technology or at least technology that is derivative of our shrimp technology.

The ability to grow fin fish in a sustainable, bio-secure, environmentally friendly fashion, puts a long time dream of mine in range of becoming a reality. 

According to several studies and institutions despite the growth of aquaculture the past decade still less than 4% of marine fish (which are heavily in demand for food consumption) comes from aquaculture. 

You have heard my rants against net pens and open water ponds for aquaculture. 

You know I am not a big fan of tilapia and barramundi (an Asian sea bass) and sturgeon and catfish as far as candidates for feeding the world. 

Today, in our developmental meeting, we actually selected the first two species we hope to start R&D on in early 2016 and I am very excited about both species. 

I think we can be a game changer for the oceans over the next decade and beyond. 

On a personal note I sold the Lakewood house where Lori fought her last battles against cancer. 

On a more cheerful note Sara, my executive assistant, while I was in Maryland captured a short video of this visitor, a young dolphin,  swimming through my lights in the canal off my deck. 

(I have no idea if video works on this blog site but I am posting it and hopefully it will run for you. It is only a few seconds but it is very cool).

So, a lot of things happened in March. 

We had very lousy weather here in Texas, as did most of the USA, but that looks to finally be over. 

I think April is going to be a very productive month and I am looking forward to a real spring and summer season.

As this March closes I will leave you with the following quote from Lewis Carroll. 

"One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others." (Lewis Carroll)

If he includes animals and the earth amongst "others" then this quote expresses the core of my belief system. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Next Phase

The past two days I have been reading countless articles coming from news and industry sources all around the globe, each article announcing another fishery in crisis. 

Sardine stocks off the coast of California are at historical lows, problems with tuna fisheries in the Pacific, pollution issues in the Gulf affecting shrimp and other crustaceans, everywhere the news is bad to worse.

While I appreciate the effort that goes into reading these articles and then forwarding them on to me, honestly, I have not found one report of a disaster or problem affecting the marine health of this planet to be a surprise.

In point of fact, if it wasn't so sad, and so detrimental to the planet and its biodiversity, I would almost shrug it off. The truth is, this has all been coming for the past 6 decades. 

I am not going to go into another rambling diatribe of the destruction we as a species have done to the world's oceans through wild capture fisheries and traditional open air ponds for aquaculture, as well as the serious damage net pens are causing in the open ocean. 

I would suggest that if you really care about the fate of our planet and want understand how intertwined our lives are with those of the oceans, read the book "The Most Important Fish in The Sea", by H. Bruce Franklin, published in 2007. 

This book is about menhaden, a small, relatively misunderstood fish, that is vital to the health of the world's oceans. It is more than a cautionary tale, it is story that is being repeated around the world affecting multiple species and a tale that we ignore at truly, "our own peril."

I read this book the year it came out and it was one of those "epiphany" moments that was another piece in what was a long chain of events that lead me to try and develop a truly sustainable and environmentally positive system in which to raise marine protein.

On other fronts, Stephen and Lee got back from their two week journey to Japan and Taiwan and they had a very successful trip. 

Work is progressing on our Japanese production project and the design and proposals for bids will be started shortly.

Here at the Texas location we are convening this week to develop the CAPEX budget and get the process started for preparing the construction documents to get bids out to begin phase 2 here at Taft.

Phase 2 will see the addition of two more production modules and a new bio-filter for those units, being built and (hopefully) in operation by September of this year.

The production team is doing another harvest this coming week and  that should be the last of the "test" ponds. 

Hence forth, we will being stocking the ponds in modules 1 and 2 at higher densities and we anticipate the beginning of ongoing regular harvests starting in May. 

I have not spoken at length to Eduardo, since I returned from Maryland, but I am confident we will be in a position to stock our ponds going forward with post larvae from our own brood stock, grown on site at the hatchery here in Texas. 

That is a huge accomplishment for our team and a necessary step to self sufficiency and a vertically integrated production capability.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Every now and then you have a good day in spite of yourself.

Today, we harvested 14,000 pounds of shrimp from a pond containing only 4800 cubic meters of water. That is about 2.2 kilograms of shrimp biomass per cubic meter of water.

That surpasses every harvest record for density in shrimp production, in the world.

And we only stocked it at 45% of what we know we can do. We know we can do 5 kg's per cubic meter of water. 

And these are big shrimp 38 grams and larger.

Funny, after a winter from hell, and only six months from losing Lori, we are achieving and surpassing the results we always thought we would. 

What a day. 

I am still not able to sleep. 

Back in July 2012 I wrote a blog about bad thoughts in the night and problems with sleeping, but who knew it would get even harder. I seldom sleep 4 hours a night these days.

A few things have raced through my brain today.

There are still some things in life worth paying extra for. 

And that can help me sleep.

Amarone wine. 

Look it up, twice the alcoholic content of other red wines. 

The top of the tier in wines from the Valpolicellca region, it is made from grapes that are dried for over a year. 

It is made in the Veneto region of north eastern Italy and arguably the region's and in my mind, the country's most prestigious wine. 

Cohiba cigars. 

I am not a smoker. Never even tried cigarettes, but now and then (especially when I am in a very hedonistic mood), I do turn to a good Cuban cigar. 

Just had two Cohiba's in TCI. 

I traveled to Cuba with a close friend in 2002.

In Cuba I tried about 15 different bands of Cuban cigars. 

Cohiba's are simply better. 

Not hype but just like a Porsche is better than a Corvette. 

I think  Cuban cigars are the best in the world. 

And Cohiba's are, in my opinion, the best of the best. 

I prefer Robusto's or Sligo IV's but they are all superior in my view to anything else out there and worth the cost.

Blanton's bourbon. 

Over priced and hard to find, it is simply the best bourbon in the world.

I will drink Woodford's or even Bookers, but Blanton's is worth the mark up. 


There is something about horses, all horses, that calms me down. 

When I am lucky enough these days to spend a few hours in a barn with horses, I always sleep well that night. 

You all know I have two horses. 

Well, Lori and I had two horses. Annie and Charm. 

I have had Charm since she was 6 months old. She turns 30 this year.

Looks good doesn't she?

Horses smell good, and they are comforting. 

The Jefferson Bible. 

Years ago, Thomas Jefferson decided to examine Christianity and his feelings about a deity. 

The result was the Jefferson Bible. 

Do yourself a favor, read it. 

It will inspire you at worse. 

At best, it will comfort you.

It is the perfect example of why we should never let "religion get in the way of God."

Lewis Carroll wrote one time, "I find I always give myself good advice, but I notice I often fail to follow it." 

Now that is true and funny and sad. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

SoapBox Time

Fish farms may move from Changi after mass deaths

Some eyeing sites with stronger tides, while others plan to install protection
PUBLISHED ON MAR 4, 2015 8:53 AM
0 1 0 0PRINT<>EMAIL<javascript:void(0);>

A plankton bloom at the weekend killed 120 tonnes of fish at Marine Life Aquaculture (left). -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG


After a plankton bloom at the weekend wiped out almost all their stocks of fish, some farmers in Changi are looking at moving to sites with stronger tide conditions.

Others told The Straits Times they planned to invest in more costly closed containment systems that would be protected from such blooms, which can suffocate marine life. The systems cost a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.

The weekend incident was a blow to farms still trying to recover from a similarly devastating bloom a year ago. One of them, Ah Hua Kelong, went online to appeal for donations to help it meet its daily running costs.

Mr Frank Tan, chief operating officer of Marine Life Aquaculture, which produces about 200 tonnes of seabass and threadfin annually, said he had planned to move to two sites - one on Pulau Tekong and the other on the Southern Islands - following last year's incident, which wiped out 20 tonnes of his fish.

Last Saturday's bloom killed 120 tonnes of his fish.

"We spent the past year rebuilding our business and were planning to move only in about a few years' time. We didn't expect another plankton bloom so soon," said Mr Tan, 40. He said he had spent almost a million dollars rebuilding his business.

Yesterday, he was still busy directing staff to bag and remove the dead fish.

Following the authorities' warnings, he had managed to save a few hundred adult fish by moving them to an offshore site located near his Changi farm.

Mr Tan said he will be ready to move in one to two months. He estimates the tides at Pulau Tekong to have a water flow rate three times stronger than those at Changi, so stronger support structures need to be built for the farm.

Fin Fisher owner Timothy Hromatka, 42, is not discounting a move to Pulau Tekong, but estimates he would need $500,000 to do so. "Tekong is farther away (from the mainland), and this means higher operational costs."

The smell of rotting fish was strong around the fish farms, located near the Lorong Halus jetty, yesterday as workers continued to dispose of the dead fish.

As of October last year, home-grown farms contributed about 7 per cent to the industry, producing fish like sea bass and grouper as well as lobsters.

Plankton blooms are caused by factors such as warmer weather and a neap tide, when the high tide is at its lowest.

Some farmers such as Mr Malcolm Ong, chief executive of The Fish Farmer, who is in his 50s, are looking at farming under controlled conditions to protect their stocks from such unpredictable blooms.

But another farmer, Mr Simon Oh, in his 60s, said the systems can be challenging to install. He lost all 35 tonnes of his pomfret last week. "I have no funds to restart my business, much less invest in such equipment," he said.

A good friend sent me the above article two days ago. 

News like this used to upset me.

Today, these kinds of "news pieces" no longer penetrate my psyche.

Catastrophic "events" with fish pens and net pens have been happening in Chile, in Canada, and in the Mediterranean and more, for years.

It is probably happening elsewhere as I write this, it has just not "come to light". 

The press and the "greenies" are just catching up with this news and the "industry" has been able to contain these catastrophic events and shield them from public view until recently.

I am not just being my normal cynical self, but I am tired of trying to enlighten people about this crisis, people that should "get it" but simply do not." 

Over 20 years ago I began talking to corporate leaders, commercial fishery types, and government honchos, about the "Gathering Storm" we are facing given the plight of the world's oceans. 

Open water (in the actual ocean) fish pens, net pens, and other fish enclosures are even deadlier to the ocean than open aquaculture pond systems on land, and that is saying something. 

I believe over the next two decades, the de-nitrification of the ocean floor is going create millions of square miles of toxic "dead zones" globally that will make the problems in the Gulf of Mexico look like "practice"  for the real deal. 

When you combine the ongoing environmental degradation from open air ponds and net pens with the overfishing of wild capture fisheries and the destruction to the benthic layer of the ocean from strip mining the ocean's floor and of course, ongoing damage to the oceans from land based pollution, dumping of waste, etc., and so forth, the oceans are not facing a crisis, they are in one.....

This was the single motivating factor that caused me to start developing the GBT system over 15 years ago. 

And when food shortages start to occur exponentially in the next 5 years and and seafood prices continue to rise, and access to healthy and quality marine protein simply is no longer possible, people will start to scream and governments will start to take notice, and it will be too late.  

And the irony will be this, we as a species, caused every bit of this crisis, all by ourselves. 

GBT is going to try and do more.  

We are aggressively developing a research protocol to begin looking at several species of highly nutritious fin fish that we believe we can grow with our current technology, and it will be our objective to be in commercial production in about 36 months. 

Over the past 15 years as we have worked to develop our technology for shrimp production we have faced and dealt with naysayers, derogatory critiques from industry pundits, disreputable manufacturers and suppliers, greed driven "partners", uninterested and unhelpful government leaders, and worse, and yet we have persevered and the system is working and in point of fact, we are already making  improvements as we speak, that will make it more efficient and more productive. 

I no longer even try to "sell" the GBT system.

With rare exceptions most members of our species are either so damn "profit driven" or "too damn stupid" or simply "indifferent" to see the obvious. 

And the pace at which governments and businesses proceed is glacial. 

I have finally learned a lesson that has eluded me all my life, "I can only deal with things I can control", I simply can no longer get upset over things beyond my ability to control.

So, we at GBT, will continue to work as hard and as intelligently as possible to expand our shrimp production side of the company while moving forward as fast as prudently possible to start raising high quality fin fish in our system. 

Meanwhile I believe there will be a continuing cascade of these "environmental catastrophes" that will spread like wild fire in the coming decade and there will (be to use the biblical expression) more "wailing and gnashing of teeth" as the global production of marine protein collapses. 

Given my cynical sense of humor I can see an upside, we may not have to worry about global warming? 

If we will starve to death (or kill through food borne diseases") half the planet's human population by 2040 and then the greenhouses gases emitted by human activities causing global warning will be cut in half by sheer population reduction and no legislation or compliance will be needed. (You have to love "irony").

In my opinion, the human species is truly the most paradoxical species that ever existed.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Natural Bio-filtration

I just got back from the Turks and Caicos where 1) I enjoyed a great day of fly-fishing for bone fish, which I enjoyed immensely.

Being on the water, seeing tarpon, baby green turtles, barracuda, and catching and releasing, (in my opinion) the greatest fighting fish to capture on a fly rod, is a healing, even a meditative experience for me.

In addition, our international partners, Projects International are working to see if we could develop a substantial GBT shrimp project in TCI.

I first went to TCI over 20 years ago and while I love the islands I have some serious reservations about the feasibility of ever having a GBT production system for shrimp there, however that said, I must admit the progress made so far in negotiations has gone amazingly well. 

And in a very surreal development the government agency heads we met with both understood and embraced the natural bio-filtration/conservancy that is a key element in the GBT system.

A few weeks ago, I set a version (see below)  of the following out to the key management team for GBT.

 If and “should” we ever be considered for that "Nobel Prize” Peter Young keeps mentioning, it will be because of the fact that natural bio-filtration through an indigenous conservancy.

Since the beginning of time all farming both on land and in the ocean, from aquaculture to agricultural, from net pens, to mono cultures, from open ponds to pig parlors, (you get the drift) all farming practices have done immeasurable harm to the environment and especially to the immediate land, air and water on or adjacent to the actual production facility or area.

GBT is unique in that all four of our critical methodologies from the filtration and cleaning of the original water through it filtration system, from its original (usually polluted source); to its bio-floc in the ponds, to its mechanical bio-filtration, to finally its natural bio-filtration conservancy, actually improves at every stage the water and eventually the land and the water we utilize.

I could go into great detail about the molecular bonding processes of saltwater via natural evaporation, cloud formation, ozone processing through ionization, via thunderstorms, etc., and so forth but frankly it is tedious and you probably already remember basic biochemistry from college so it is not necessary.

Suffice to say, the GBT system mimics to the extent possible nature in every way e can and as such this has allowed us to develop the world's first truly RAS with no discharge of any of our processed and treated water back into the original water source.

More to the point even if a natural disaster were to occur of epic proportions and my chance our water was by the millions of gallons back into say, Copano Bay, our water quality at any stage would not be a detriment to the surrounding environment.

The fully integrated GBT system is extremely complex, to say the least.

And for all the naysayers or into day’s lingo, “the hater’s” developing and using a conservancy to add an element of natural bio-filtration to our system, is not a public relations stunt, nor an appeasement offering to the greenies, but it is an integral and critical part of our integrated system and that is a first in history for the production of any food of which we are aware.

And every GBT system in the world will have this natural bio-filtration element in a form that is indigenous to the area and terrain and respective ecosystem of each production facility.