ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. -- In South Florida, we’re lucky to have easy access to fresh seafood.
But, you might be surprised how rarely your seafood is actually fresh and local!
Experts say more than 90 percent of our country’s seafood is shipped in from overseas. That’s why Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch campus and Amy’s Island Seafood are teaming up to help grow the local aquaculture industry, and put fresh, local and traceable seafood on your dinner plate.
Research Professor, Paul Wills, says overfishing has caused problems supplying the demand for seafood.
Aquaculture, or fish-farming, helps meet that demand.
Amy Zwemer started Amy’s Island Seafood last year. Her business, located in St. Lucie County, grows fish. She has successfully raised 3,000 cobia since April.
“Our idea is to grow healthy, natural fish. It’s just that they’re being grown in tanks opposed to being grown in the ocean,” Zwemer said. “They’re delicious and they’re fast growing.”
But, Amy is trying to get into the aquaculture industry while also growing the fish in a humane way. Many “fish farms” around the world feed their fish with antibiotics. Some also raise them in polluted water.
“People have heard in the news where the fish they think they’re getting is not even the fish they thought it was,” Zwemer explained.
FAU researchers are helping her grow her fish only feeding them fish food, and in water that’s controlled and clean.
Researchers hope to learn from this method, and teach what they learn to other aquaculture businesses.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for expansion of aquaculture in St. Lucie County,” Wills said. He hopes Zwemer’s Cobia will help grow the local aquaculture industry, promote a lasting food supply and healthy eating.
Zwemer knows more people than ever want to know what’s in the food they’re eating and where it’s from. She says aquaculture provides peace of mind. Her fish will be able to be tracked from inception to the plate.
“The idea would be “fresh to plate”. So, they come out of the tank this morning and they’re on your plate tonight, so you can’t get much fresher than that.”
Amy’s current stock of Cobia should be ready to go to market by the end of the year.
She wants to work with local restaurants to develop a label on their menus to let guests know they’re eating her fish.
She also, in the coming months, wants to grow seaweed and other types of fish.
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